Alan Mole, an RMMS member, donated prizes for the Mars Society to hold a contest for the best proposal for a Mars colony of a thousand people. Here is his summary:
It was very successful. The Mars Society received 101 papers, almost all being twenty pages. I was tapped to judge the first twenty, and many had original and pertinent ideas. One group noted the required structural thickness of a pressure vessel is proportional to the pressure contained, so for minimum weight the habitats and greenhouses should hold the minimum pressure that humans can breathe indefinitely. They researched this, and found that with enhanced oxygen this was 0.27 atm (96% oxygen and 4% nitrogen). Thus we can save almost 3/4 of the mass of the habitats and greenhouses we must bring from Earth. There were other good ideas in the twenty papers I read, and there must be many in the other eighty one submissions. For the amount of the prizes ($17,500 in total) this was a great bargain.
I plan to do it again next year, perhaps for colony of a million. The larger lesson is that prizes work.
Our chapter was well represented in the contest – 5 of the 10 judges are RMMS members.
The Mars Society published the list of finalists earlier in July, and the winners will be determined at the next Mars Society convention after additional presentations and judging.
Congratulations to the finalists and a huge thank you to Alan for his prize contributions!