Toronto high school student Eric Yam estimates his award-winning Asten space settlement design could be completed over a 30-year time frame at a cost of more than $500 billion US. ((Eric Yam))

A Toronto high school student's detailed vision of a space settlement — a spinning, cylindrical-shaped structure capable of holding 10,000 residents — was named the winner of an annual NASA competition.

Eric Yam, a Grade 12 student Toronto's Northern Secondary School, took the grand prize in his age group of NASA's Space Settlement Competition, becoming the first Canadian to win the award in the contest's 16-year history.

His settlement — named Asten, an alternate name of Thoth, the Egyptian god of balance — is a 1.6 kilometre-high structure made up of a series of habitation rings stacked in the shape of a cylinder. The entire structure rotates on its axis, simulating Earth-like gravity for its inhabitants.

Yam's description of the settlement runs 92 pages and includes detailed drawings using the free downloadable software Google SketchUp.

And it leaves no stone unturned, covering everything from emergency procedures to which foods will be grown on the station, based on their nutrient content.

Yam's plan calls for 15 years of planning followed by 12 years of construction and another three years to make the settlement habitable. His estimated cost to build the station is $563 billion US.

The project even delves into how the society on the station would work and borrows heavily from Canadian policies, including adopting a tax regime based on the Canadian income tax system and deciding who lives on the station based a point system modeled on Canada's immigration policy.

The contest is co-sponsored by the NASA Ames Research Center and the U.S.-based National Space Society and directed at students from ages 11 to 18 from around the world, with two age categories for the contest.

Yam's entry was one of 309 submissions from a total of 875 students.

A group of students from Emery Collegiate Institute in Toronto took a share of third place in the Grade 6 to Grade 9 age group for their project, entitled Sky High. Two other teams from the same school also received honourable mention.