Scientist For A Day Essay Contest


Scientist for a Day challenges students in grades 5-12 to think like scientists. Examine real spacecraft images of Uranus’ moon Miranda, Neptune’s moon Triton, and Pluto’s moon Charon. Students are to choose the destination they think would be the best place to return with another spacecraft to learn about these amazing worlds. They are to support their choice in an essay of no more than 500 words.

2019-2020 Topics 

  • Topic 1: Miranda, Moon of Uranus
  • Topic 2: Triton, Moon of Neptune
  • Topic 3: Charon, Moon of Pluto

Which of these three moons inspires you to explore further? What do you hope we’ll find if we return to these places? If you like, you can even tell us which science instruments you would put on the next spacecraft to help us learn even more.

The 2019-20 essay contest is sponsored by the Radioisotope Power Systems program. This is the group at NASA that develops the power technology that enables spacecraft to explore the planets and moons of the outer solar system.


Teachers: If you make the essay a class assignment, please be sure to set an internal deadline for your students so that you have time to read your students’ essays and submit only the top three essays per class.

  • Students from countries other than the United States should contact the national essay contest organizer(s) in their own country. For a list of participating countries, visit the international pages. African countries Coordinators are listed below.
  • Students can work alone or in teams of up to four students.
  • All submissions must be the students’ original work. Entries containing plagiarized material will be disqualified.
  • Each student may submit only one entry.
  • Do not include direct contact information for students under age 18. All communication will be conducted between JPL and the students’ teacher.
  • Essays that are longer than 500 words will be disqualified.
  • The names and contact information will not be included in the word count for the 500-word essay.
  • Use only plain text (no images or attachments). Attachments will not be accepted.
  • Communication skills are an important part of being a scientist. Spelling and grammar will be considered in addition to the ideas expressed in the essay.
  • Essay writers will be divided into three groups:
    1. grades 5 to 6
    2. grades 7 to 8
    3. grades 9 to 12


A winning essay will be selected for each topic in each grade group.

Write an essay (500 words maximum) explaining which of the three moons you think is most interesting, and explain why. If you could send another spacecraft to explore your chosen moon in more detail, which of these three moons would you choose to visit? What do you hope you would learn?

Deadline: Essay entries for the African contest must be received by Feb. 20, 2020, at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

African Countries Participating as at November 2019

Country National Coordinator Email Language Accepted Deadline
Kenya Bonventure Ameyo Masakhwe Swahili, English Feb, 20, 2020
Nigeria Oloko-Oba Idris Mustafa English Feb, 20, 2020
Morocco Zakaria Belhaj Arabic, French, English Feb, 20, 2020
Senegal Abdoulaye Fall French Feb, 20, 2020

More countries will be added as more national contest organizers are identified. Please check back to see if your country has been added. If you are interested in being a national contest organizer, please email

For further information, please visit the website 

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