Starting in 1994, the international NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest is sponsored by NASAs Ames Research Center, San Jose State University, and the National Space Society (NSS). Students up to the 12th year compete with dizzying and bold designs for space habitats (like space stations, but with the capacity to house tens of thousands of people like a small artificial world) using impressive research and calculations.
The 2016 winner, Project Divinity, was the brain child of five South Korean students under the direction of their instructor. It draws an ambitious plan to not just populate a space habitat with 10,000 inhabitants but also host a space vehicle industry which could promote development and economic growth.
A previous winning team from Toronto, Canada (Asten from 2009) came up with the ingenious idea of using premade modular components to make construction in space simpler. One ambitious proposal (Maui from 2013) imagines a floating chemical factory in Saturn’s atmosphere much like Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back.
Much as wisdom oft comes from the mouth of babes, the bright eyed and brilliant engineers of tomorrow are giving us fertile fodder for our outlandish stories and may be intimating how it will look.