The Jeuns

Third-grade student from Lexington wins national contest, awarded trip to NASA research facility

April 23, 2024 | by The Jeuns

An elementary school student from Lexington has been announced as a winner in NASA’s third annual Power to Explore Challenge, a national writing competition aimed at educating students about the use of radioisotopes for space exploration.

Rainie Lin, a third-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary School, was selected as the winner of the contest for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The competition received nearly 1,787 entries from 48 states and Puerto Rico.

As part of her prize, Lin, along with other winners and their guardians, received invitations to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland for a VIP tour of the facilities. The competition also announced winners for grades fifth through eighth and ninth through 12.

According to NASA’s Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, Nicola Fox, the Power to Explore Challenge is a great way to inspire students to aim for the stars and beyond, and to help NASA discover new ways to utilize radioisotopes for space exploration.

Participants in the challenge were required to learn about NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) and write a short essay outlining a space mission enabled by these power systems. RPS is a nuclear “battery” that plays a crucial role in many of NASA’s ambitious space missions.

Lin’s winning essay, titled “Mission Gentoo,” focuses on an RPS mission to Enceladus, a moon orbiting Saturn. The mission aims to use a lander spacecraft and mini-subs to study Enceladus’ surface features, composition, and subsurface ocean while searching for signs of life. Lin expresses in her essay that researching Enceladus can expand our understanding of Antarctica and the penguin’s habitat, potentially aiding in efforts to combat climate change and protect the penguin’s environment.

Lin shared that she submitted the essay to provide NASA with mission ideas and credited her mother for the mission’s name and her sister for the mini-sub concept. The Power to Explore Challenge was funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s RPS Program Office.

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