Gill catches up with 12 young
minds, who worked for the moon and got it.
Space-age students: The victorious Budha Dal Public School team which designed a city for the moon
school run by Nihangs has done the country proud yet again — by
planning a prize-winning settlement on the moon. Budha Dal Public
School, Patiala, run by the Nihang Dal of Baba Santa Singh, aced the
field for the second time running at NASA’s Settlement in Space on
Moon competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.
The 12-member team,
representing Asia at the meet, hit the bull’s-eye again, much to the
amazement of fellow competitors. For the team it was just reward for all
the sleepless nights, turmoil and practice they had endured.
Eight boys and four
girls along with their two advisers also metamorphosised on the way —
from preparing for the competition to winning it. The competition was
held from July16 to18 and the team returned to India on August 1.
Navneet Kaur, Rahul Saini, Amteshwar Singh, Saurabh Anand, Aayush Rai,
Manpreet Kaur, Samrat Singh, Sahil Arora, Navninder Singh Saini, Harleen
Kaur and Ikwinder Chadha, along with their teacher Anita Singh learnt to
work as one unit as they spent two months together before the
competition. Families, classroom studies, hobbies, entertainment and
even sleep took a back seat as they slogged with their plans and
counter-plans. The team took over the school conference room, studying
and sleeping there. Families chipped in with home-made food, keeping
them well-nourished. Confined proximity was good for brain-storming
sessions with Anita acting as a guiding hand. "Proximity also meant
some ego troubles, but they all seem nothing now," the 12 talents
tell you now. "It was all worth it," they chorus.
Patiala to Balderol
The distance may have
been immense but their imagination travelled it easily. Balderol —
that was the settlement they had to plan on the moon. A rough outline,
called the Request for Proposal, was given to the participants. It said
the settlement was for mining and would have 15,500 people. The deadline
was 43 hours after which they had to convince the judges of their design
in a 35-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute question-answer
session. It was not only about science and technology but also human
factors and relations, business transactions and optimum use of
resources. Collaborating with Whitney High School, California, the
countdown started. Planning things on the moon is no easy task. With
one-sixth the gravity of the earth, things can be difficult for
earthlings. You jump six times higher on the moon, mistakenly thinking
yourself to be Superman. But hazards unthinkable on the earth abound on
our planet’s satellite. Hostile atmosphere, no oxygen, space debris
and lunar dust all have to be taken care of.
The team got down to
the task, dividing itself into seven departments — structures,
operations, human factors, automation, business, schedule and cost and
The company was named
All departments got
down to work. A site was selected on the lunar surface to make the
settlement. Protection from space debris and availability of sunlight
were taken into account. It was set on the outer edge of Copernicus
crater. That side of the moon has sufficient sunlight through out the
year. Solar panels were set up. Balderol was to run on solar energy. The
structure designed was in the shape of a dome, the most stable
structure. The fibres used had to be resistant to the lunar environment.
Calculations were made with tables provided by NASA. There were domes
within domes, housing different sections. A whole city was planned
inside the dome. Houses had the facade of suburban Indian houses, for
building them lunar dust was packed and used in form of bricks along
with PVC. (Lunar dust is a strong building material.) Hospitals were
planned, parks designed and other forms of entertainment worked out.
Three-dimensional and interactive games were also there to keep the
Use of robots
All the work was to be
done by robots. After all if mankind is settling on the moon, they
couldn’t be expected to carry out menial tasks. Gardens were planned
on rooftops, to make optimum use of available space. The lunar hanging
Different types of
robots were to work on Balderol. From mining robots to household robots.
Like humans, robots had to have protective gear, to shield them from
heat and tough environment. The terrain was tough and the mining
outposts were far away from the residential dome.
horticulture were planned to feed the settlement. They were placed under
a separate dome. The tier system was used to save space and water.
Anyway, everything was to be recycled.
The time frame for building Balderol
was 12 years. Costs of different material to be used were calculated,
including the inflation expected during the years it took to build it.
To top it, the Request for Proposal said Balderol was to be built 40
years from now. The team had to start from what the scenario would be 40
years hence. A leapfrog into space age. The mission was completed when
the team was able to convince the judges that their plan was the best to
work for Balderol. Data gleaned and gathered from various sources was
used. Information from NASA’s missions to Mars and the moon came in
handy. The students also browsed books and depended on the Internet.