Scientist for a Day Archive

Editor's Note: Scientist for a Day was an essay contest that gave students in grades 5-12 a chance to think like scientists and learn about real NASA missions. Various NASA missions and projects have sponsored this essay contest over the years. It was held annually from 2006-2021. The international contest ended in 2022. The contest was open to U.S. students in 2022 and 2023. The 2024 contest is currently underway for U.S. K-12 students.

This site ( is merging into's technology section. Past Scientist for a Day essays will no longer be available online after March 30, 2024. Please make screenshots or copies of your essays.

For the (new) 2024 contest, visit to learn more about the latest challenge for U.S. K-12 students: Power to Explore, sponsored by the Radioisotope Power Systems program.

Congratulations to All the Finalists and Semifinalists!

View all results of the 2020-21 U.S. essay contest

Thank you to all of the students who participated in this year's contest. Our judges were impressed with the quality of the essays. Thank you for writing such inspiring essays!

The Scientist for a Day team

Read the essays written by the winners: Aaron Heisel, Adhithi Arun, Annie Hu, Jennifer Sauter, Keira Roberts, Ramesh Pattar, Shreya Swaminathan, Stephanie Dragoi, and Zoey Skoutas.

Ad to promote the recording of the live event
Bethany Eppig, Kelsi Singer, and Dipak Srinivasan answered students' questions about the contest's topics and anything related to space exploration. Credit: NASA. Watch the recording on YouTube ›.


Bethany Eppig
Environmental Policy and Launch Approval Manager
NASA Radioisotope Power Systems Program

Kelsi Singer
Planetary Scientist
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder

Dipak Srinivasan
Europa Clipper Telecommunications Lead
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Host: Ota Lutz
K-12 Education Lead
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

In January 1986, the mighty spacecraft reached the Uranus system. Voyager 2 took as many images as possible of anything within sight. Those were very brief visits, though, and we only know what one side of these faraway moons looks like.

  • Which of these three moons inspires you to explore further?
  • What excites you about what we’ve learned so far?
  • What do you hope we’ll find if we return to these places?
  • Support your choice in an essay of no more than 300 words.

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

Good Luck!

The Scientist for a Day team

What is an RPS?

Radioisotope Power Systems provide the power to explore, discover, and understand our solar system. You can learn more about RPS on this website. This video explains some of the concepts.

2020-2021 Topics


Ariel is believed to be the least cratered of all the moons orbiting Uranus. Carbon dioxide has been detected there.


Oberon, Uranus' second largest moon, has a mountain that rises almost 4 miles (more than 6 kilometers) off the surface.


Titania, Uranus' largest moon, has a system of fault valleys that stretches nearly 1,000 miles (about 1,600 kilometers).

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