Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest


Every year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory runs the Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest for youths to learn more about the planet Saturn and the Cassini-Huygens mission.


The Cassini mission was launched in 1997 and entered into orbit around Saturn in 2004.  Cassini-Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to Saturn to study the planet and its many natural satellites.  Once it completes its mission in 2017, the spacecraft will be sent to a fiery death in Saturn's atmosphere!


Contest participants play the role of mission scientists who capture images of various targets on and around Saturn and its fascinating rings and moons, in order to study them and understand more about their formation and processes.  


In the Singapore edition of the contest, secondary school, polytechnic and junior college students write an essay choosing one of three possible scientific targets at Saturn.  At the conclusion of the essay contest, local organisers Astronomy.SG and Galaxy Astronomy Club, with sponsorship from NUS’ Special Programme in Science (SPS),hold a video conference for student participants with Cassini scientists and engineers, to excite and inspire the students.


This year, close to 70 participants and SPS students had the opportunity to meet two NASA scientists through the video conference on 5 March. Dr Morgan L. CABLE, a Project Science Systems Engineer for the Cassini Mission and Dr Earl MAIZE, Manager of the Cassini Programme, gave an introduction on “Exploring with Cassini”. They spoke passionately about their work and shared information on the contest’s three targets - Saturn’s Rings and Moons; Jupiter; and Rhea and Tethys. 


The video conference ended with a Q & A session, where the contestants were able to interact with Dr Cable and Dr Maize.


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Students had the opportunity to meet Dr Cable (left) and Dr Maize


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A student eagerly posing a question to Dr Cable and Dr Maize


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Planet Saturn (image from Google)