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

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.

This opportunity is open to all students in the United States who are in grades 5 to 12.

  • 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.
  • Students can work alone or in teams of up to four students.
  • All submissions must be 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?

To Enter the Contest

  • There is a submission form on this website for students in the U.S.
  • By participating, students agree to assign copyright to JPL so that JPL and NASA can post the essays, as excerpts or in their entirety, on NASA Web sites, along with the authors' name, grade, school, city, and state.
  • Those participating in the United States contest must use the submission form, which will be ready soon.
  • Entries must be submitted by teachers.

Teachers Please Include

  • Your name, email address, telephone number including area code, and the name and address of the school, so that we may contact you.
  • The name(s) and grade(s) of all students who contributed to each essay (a maximum of four per essay).
  • You are welcome (and encouraged) to use this contest as a class assignment. However, you can ONLY submit the top three essays from each of your classes for us to judge.
  • Only the top three essays from each class will be included in the judging. After submitting your top three essays per class, please send an email to with the list of names of other students from your class(es) who wrote essays so we can make certificates of participation for them. If you teach more than one class, you may submit up to three top essays per class.
  • Once winners are selected, winners' teachers will be contacted and asked to provide a photograph of the student(s) to post on our website along with the winning essays. Parents/guardians must submit written authorization to let us post the photos online.

What Happens Next

  • The decision of the judges is final.
  • The winning schools, and as many other schools as possible, will be invited to participate in a teleconference or videoconference with NASA scientists and/or engineers.


How do I submit my student's essay?

Teachers in the United States must use the online submission form. Students participating in the international contest should contact their national organizers for instructions.

Who can participate in the essay contest?

This contest is open to all students in the U.S. in grades 5 to12. Parallel contests are being run in other countries around the world. For a list of participating countries, visit the international pages.

Can home-schooled students enter this essay contest?


Do I need to include citations or a bibliography?

Your teacher may require you to include citations and/or a bibliography if the essay is a class assignment. For the purposes of the contest, however, we don't require one, and the judges won't read bibliographies. You do not need to send us a bibliography along with your essay.

What is the prize for U.S. contest winners?

All U.S. winners of the Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Solar System Exploration website. U.S. winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a videoconference or teleconference with NASA scientists and/or engineers so the students can have their questions about the moons of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Other participating countries may offer their own prizes.

What is the prize for international (non U.S.) contest winners?

All international winners of the Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Solar System Exploration website. Each participating country may offer its own prizes. All national coordinators will receive a template for the certificate of participation so that they can acknowledge all of their country's participants and/or winners.

Can students at a Museum, Science Center, Astronomy Club or After-school program participate?

Yes, but please have your program coordinator contact us at for the details on how to submit.

My country doesn't have a contest, but I would like to participate. What can I do?

  • If your country has a space agency, ask if they would like to host a Scientist for a Day contest in your country.
  • Some countries don't have national coordinators, but there may be a contest available to students in your region.
  • You can always do the research and write the essay anyway. It's good practice for writing essays in college or university, even if you don't write the essay for the purpose of entering the contest.

Can I choose to write about more than one moon?

No, you have to choose just one moon in your essay. Being able to describe which target you think will return the most interesting scientific data is one of the main points of this activity.

English is not my first language. Does my essay have to be written in English?

The contest for students in the United States is only accepting essays in English. Each country that participates in the essay contest may choose the language(s) in which entries will be accepted. It depends in part on the languages the contest judges can read. Check the rules for your country's version of the contest.

I live in the United States, and I'm enrolled in school, but I'm not a United States citizen. Can I still send my entry to enter the U.S. contest?


Can students from different grades work together?

Yes, but you must indicate the grade level for each student who wrote the essay, and the essay will be judged in the grade category of the oldest student who collaborated on the essay.

I have given this assignment to my classes as a project. Can I send all the essays I collected?

You are welcome and encouraged to use this contest as a class assignment. Please read the essays and send us ONLY the top three essays from each of your classes for us to judge. After submitting your students' best essays, please email with a list of all the other students in your classes who wrote essays for the contest so that they can all receive certificates of participation.

Is grammar important?

Yes, your peers - the jury judging your essay - must be able to comprehend your argument.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Send an email to or to your country's national essay contest coordinator, if you're not in the United States.

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