Mars Settlement Design Comp

Welcome to the Mars Settlement Competition! We are looking for forward-thinking, creative students to develop and design a realistic settlement that would allow humans to survive on Mars long-term.

Sign up your team here!


The Theoretical Space Case 

NASA wants to establish a settlement of at least 250 people to live and work on Mars. They are looking for a strategy and blueprint to transport and establish a permanent space settlement on the red planet.

First, they need some key questions answered (address each somewhere in proposal):

  • How can 250+ people be transported to Mars?
  • Who gets to go to Mars and what are the ideal qualifications?
  • How much total mass will be transported to Mars?
  • What will be the design of the transport ship to Mars?
  • What would a safe, long-term Mars settlement look like?

MUST Include in Proposal

  • Written strategy and plan for journey and settlement design
    • Include descriptions, blueprints, pictures/sketches, data, and cost considerations
  • Rationale for all decisions
    • Explain why certain decisions were made, and how they are feasible
  • Basic sketches
    • Your own designs for transport ships, Mars base layout, specific designs


Competitors are required to form teams of 1-4 students, and must sign up (above) before April 1. The final written proposals and presentations can be sent to and everything is DUE BY 11:59pm on Friday, April 8. Teams will be able to sign up for presentation slots via email or in person through a member of the SEDS E-Board. The design presentations will be held on April 9 and 10 – each presentation should be 10-20 minutes in length.


Each member of the winning team will receive a Falcon 9 model rocket generously donated by SpaceX, and the opportunity to present their work in front of a leading member of the spaceflight community (to be announced). 


  • Assume that the technical challenge of moving from Low Mars Orbit (LMO) to the Martian surface is not insurmountable, but you are advised to choose a strategy to accomplish this.
  • Assume cost is NOT an issue, however you should include rough estimates and try to be as cost effective as possible. 

Fundamentals to Include (REQUIRED):

  • Transportation:
    • Earth’s Surface → Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)
    • LEO → Low Mars Orbit (LMO)
    • LMO → Martian Surface (brief description – no need to develop new technology)
    • Form of transportation on Martian surface
    • MUST INCLUDE both design and propulsion for transport vehicles
  • Location of Settlement on Mars – include reasoning for location chosen
  • Governing Body/Leadership Structure (for population on Mars)
  • Mars Base Demographic – include types of specialists + number of each
  • Life Support Systems – include spacesuit and structural protection from high radiation
  • Power/Energy Source – describe how source will be replenished
  • Hygiene/Sanitation – include brief waste disposal process
  • Living Arrangements – include beds, recreation, common areas
  • Food/Water/Nutrition – include sources of replenishment, eating areas
  • Communications system – include local comms for Mars and interplanetary with Earth
  • Name your Mission to Mars AND your Colony be creative

Additional Factors you may Include (OPTIONAL):

  • Research Labs – on/off main base, what they study, how many
  • Mining/Extraction – research resources/minerals that can be procured on Mars
  • Agriculture/Horticulture – research feasibility of growing food on Mars
  • Manufacturing/Fabrication – what can be sustainably created on Mars
  • Construction – research feasibility of establishing permanent structures on Mars
  • Terraforming – research feasibility/impact of transforming atmosphere/ground on Mars

Judging Criteria

  • Meets Fundamentals
  • Creativity
  • Feasibility and Risk Mitigation 
  • Appropriate Detail
  • Thorough Research


Resources – click here to visit our resources page

***Teams are strongly encouraged to reference research materials, but those sources MUST BE CITED in the final proposal – Plagiarism will immediately disqualify a team***

Questions? Get in touch with us at