The Scientist for a Day Essay Contest can be used as a classroom writing assignment in either English or Science classes. The assignment involves both inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning.

The essay contest meets various U.S. National Standards for English and Science set by the National Council of Teachers of English / International Reading Association, and the National Research Council.


Students who enter this edition of the essay contest will be making an argument in much the same way as scientists who are currently making the case to explore the moons of Uranus.

The moons Ariel, Oberon and Titania were named after characters in William Shakespeare's plays

Participating in the essay contest will give students an opportunity to delve into the unknown, piece together what little information is known about the moons, and apply observation, analytical, and predictive skills to create an argument for exploration. These skills, developed especially at the middle and high school levels, are crucial to success in any academic field and vital to career success in the sciences.


This essay contest also addresses topics covered in Next Generation Science Standards, including:

  • Middle School - MS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
  • High School - HS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe HS-ESS1-6. Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history.

By participating in the essay contest, students will:

  • Learn about real NASA missions
  • Use data from real NASA missions
  • Apply their critical thinking skills
  • Learn how to conduct research
  • Gain confidence in their ability to "do science"
  • See themselves in the roles of scientists
  • See that scientists and engineers have different opinions and priorities when choosing where their spacecraft will target images
  • Learn something new, and form questions about a place they may never have heard of
  • Conduct research using NASA websites
  • Applying their writing skills
Real science is a constant investigation of the unknown

The essays of winning students will be published on NASA's Radioisotope Power Systems website.

U.S. winning students and their classes will have the opportunity to participate in a teleconference or videoconference to ask questions of NASA scientists. (Other countries may offer different prizes to their winners, at the discretion of their country’s national contest coordinator.)

All participating students will receive an electronic certificate of participation with the images of the three moons they studied.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Carl Sagan

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