Future trailblazers are taking on the challenge of developing technology that will allow for vegetation growth on the surface of Mars. Students and faculty from universities around the country will converge at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for this year’s NASA MarsPort Engineering Design Student Competition 2002 conference organized by the Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC). Innovative design ideas will be presented as part of a two-day conference on May 14 – 15 at the Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the KSC Visitor Complex.

Participants will present a paper on engineering trade studies to design optimal configurations for a MarsPort Deployable Greenhouse (MDG) for operation on the surface of Mars.

The MarsPort competition actually began in the fall of 2001 when invitations were sent out to colleges and universities. Participating student teams were required to write and submit a proposal to the NASA MarsPort 2002 design review committee. From the 20 entries received, six teams were selected to investigate and perform trade studies to derive an optimal configuration for the MDG. This involves a systematic defining of the MDG, and requires analyzing and trading options for the greenhouse structure, light collection, water and nutrient delivery, atmospheric controls, crop selection, harvesting and materials handling, and thermal management. The design keeps in mind the need for a minimal mass and lift-off volume approach. In addition, deployment options from the spacecraft and on the surface are also being analyzed.

Representatives of six university teams from Cornell University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Saint Louis University and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, who are the finalists of the competition, will be here to make their presentations before a panel of judges from KSC, Dynamac Corporation and Florida Institute of Technology. The winning team’s innovative ideas will be used by NASA to evaluate and study other engineering trade concepts.

The 2002 MarsPort competition conference will also feature presentations by Dr. Sam Durrance, FSGC director and former astronaut, and Dr. Gary Stutte, Plant Scientist, Dynamac Corporation. JoAnn Morgan, KSC’s External Relations and Business Development Director will welcome the participants.

This year’s MarsPort competition is jointly administered and sponsored by the FSGC and the Texas Space Grant Consortium and co-sponsored by KSC and the Florida Space Research Institute.

The FSGC was formed in 1989 when NASA implemented the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The FSGC is a voluntary association of 17 universities and colleges along with KSC, Florida Space Authority (FSA), Astronaut Memorial Foundation and Higher Education Consortium for Math and Sciences. The FSGC represents Florida in NASA’s Space Grant College and Education Program. It serves more than 230,000 university students in Florida.

The MarsPort Engineering Design Competition 2002 conference hours are 9:15 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14. The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 15 at 1:45 p.m. where Dr. James L. Jennings, KSC Deputy Director, will present awards to the winning teams. Further information on the NASA MarsPort competition may be obtained by calling the Florida Space Grant Consortium at 321-452-4301.

Media representatives are invited to attend and should drive directly to the KSC Visitor Complex and proceed to the Debus Conference Facility.