The Cassini Scientist For a Day Essay Competition


Be part of the Cassini science team with a spacecraft as your remote laboratory!

Jan. 10, 2016: The Cassini Scientist for a Day contest challenges students to become NASA scientists studying Saturn. Participants examine three possible observations taken by Cassini and are tasked to choose the one they think will yield the best scientific results. This choice must then be supported in essay. The contest meets U.S. National English and Science Education Standards.

Study these three targets and pick one to write about : 

1)Enceladus' Plumes These active ice geysers are feeding one of Saturn's rings. 

2)Titan's Lakes: The only world, beyond Earth, that has liquid lakes on its surface. 

3)Saturn's Hexagon: The North Pole of Saturn Has an Unexpected Shape.


Learn about Saturn, its fascinating rings and two of its most intriguing moons. Once your research is complete, choose one of the three targets and defend your choice in an essay of up to 500 words.

Your decision should be based on which target you think would provide the most interesting scientific results. Just like real scientists do, explain what you hope to learn from the image you have selected. 


The Cassini 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.

For a complete list, visit the English & Science Education Standards.

By participating in the essay contest, students will:

  • Work with a real, current NASA mission
  • 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.
  • Watch videos by young Cassini scientists and engineers, and see that scientists and engineers come from diverse backgrounds.
  • See that scientists 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.
  • Applying their writing skills.

The essays of winning students will be published on NASA's Cassini website.

Winning students and their classes will have the opportunity to ask questions of NASA scientists in a teleconference.

All participating students receive a certificate.

Rules & Regulations: 

Deadline: Essay entries for the G.C.C. contest must be received by Sunday, APR. 30, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

  •    This opportunity is open to all students in the GCC 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. 
  •    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:
    • grades 5 to 6
    • grades 7 to 8
    • grades 9 to 12


  •  There will be a winner for each target in each grade group.
  •  Write an essay (500 words maximum) explaining which one of the three imaging targets you think is most interesting, and explain why. If Cassini could only take one of  these three images, which one would you choose?


  •   By participating, students agree to assign copyright to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (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.


  • ·  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 dhiraj@dubaiastronomy.com , scientistforaday@jpl.nasa.gov 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.


  •   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 Cassini scientists.

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS CONTACT US AT:  scientistforaday@jpl.nasa.gov   dhiraj@dubaiastronomy.com



How do I submit my student's essay?

Teachers in the United States must use the online submission form. The online submission form will be available in January 2017.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?


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

All U.S. winners of the Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Cassini website. U.S. winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a video- or tele-conference with Cassini scientists so the students can have their questions about Saturn answered by the experts. Other participating countries may offer their own prizes.

All participants will receive a certificate of participation. In addition, winners, finalists, and semi-finalists receive certificates that include their status as contest winners.
We do not have cash prizes, scholarships, trips, etc. as prizes. Our funding source prevents this, unfortunately. We do have many students and teachers who enter the contest year after year, which indicates that they find value in participating in the contest.

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

All international winners of the Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Cassini 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 scientistforaday@jpl.nasa.gov 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 Cassini 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 image?

No, you have to choose just one imaging target 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 send a list of all the 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 dhiraj@dubaiastronomy.com .