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ABQ students win state contest for sustainable lunar city

Albuquerque seventh-graders Chris Quintana, Nathan Nguyen, James Martinez, Daegan Marsh and Jackson DiLorenzo present their first-place sustainable lunar city project for the statewide Future City competition in February. (Courtesy of Marina Marsh)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Designing a city on the moon may seem like an impossible task.

Gravity is much weaker there than on Earth. Water is trapped in pockets of ice, and there’s not a green chile plant in sight.

But a group of innovative Albuquerque seventh graders at Annunciation Catholic School tackled that challenge to create a sustainable city model that could house lunar residents 100 years into the future.

Chris Quintana, Nathan Nguyen, James Martinez, Daegan Marsh and Jackson DiLorenzo beat more than 30 other teams across the state to win the Future City Competition in February.

Team Callisto – named for one of Jupiter’s moons – earned a $400 prize for its monthslong project.

The students also racked up accolades for best model, best presentation and best Q&A responses.

“The moon doesn’t have oxygen levels where you can just walk out of your home, so we addressed that with our buildings,” Quintana said. “We also decided to use water that’s found in permanently shadowed ice regions located on the south pole of the moon.”

That water source helps grow food for the futuristic lunar city.

“Our agriculture system uses hydroponic grow chambers in the moon’s lava tubes,” Martinez said. “It uses water to grow the plant instead of soil and we use fiber optic cables for the lighting. If you change the color on the lights, the plants will react differently.”

The Annunciation Catholic School students worked with a space researcher from the Colorado School of Mines to learn about resources on the moon. (Courtesy of Marina Marsh)

The team built its model using materials from a computer recycling facility.

A ski area on the moon’s mountains and a gymnasium help keep the lunar urbanites healthy.

Students said they wanted their city to be “friendly for all ages,” with residents from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

The metropolis runs on solar energy, nuclear fusion and water electrolysis, which splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen – ideal resources for the city’s rocket fuel and air supply.

A first-place state finish earned the team a virtual trip to the national competition. Panels of professional engineers and urban planners interviewed the students about how they used lunar resources to sustain their city.

The students created a hydroponic agriculture and garden system for their moon city that grows food and plants with water instead of soil. (Courtesy of Marina Marsh)

Results from the national competition will be announced on April 7. Anyone can vote online for Team Callisto to win a people’s choice award.

Since September, the students have researched the moon’s natural resources with help from teacher Marina Marsh and Angel Abbud-Madrid, space resources program director at the Colorado School of Mines.

“Before this project, I didn’t know anything about the moon and I thought it was just a giant rock in space,” said team member Daegan Marsh. “It was really fun to figure out ways to make our city work.”

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

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