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Benefits of Participating in the Essay Contest

Benefits of Participating in the Essay Contest

archived contest

Cassini at Saturn
Artist's rendition of the Cassini spacecraft arriving at Saturn.

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
  • Each participating students receive a certificate with the images of the three imaging targets (essay topics)



Chief Scientific Advisor's Briefing

Jeff Cuzzi
Jeff Cuzzi
Hello students,

I am Dr. Jeff Cuzzi, and once again I'm pleased to participate in Cassini's "Scientist for a Day" program. I am the head scientist of Cassini's Rings Discipline Working Group, charged with leading Cassini's scientific study of Saturn's rings and its interactions with Saturn's environment. I work at NASA's Ames Research Center near San Jose, California, south of San Francisco, and have been studying Saturn's rings for more than 30 years.

I am happy to recommend three potential targets from which you will select your favorite. Each of these images provides an interesting and unique opportunity to learn more about the moons orbiting the ringed planet.

Cassini can take images with either the wide-angle camera or the narrow-angle camera. The narrow-angle camera focuses in on much smaller areas -- little postage stamps on the full wide-angle page -- but in return, we get much finer detail on those smaller areas.

We call the more detailed images "high resolution." The narrow angle camera would capture only about half of the area of the full moon, for example. We use both cameras for different purposes at different times.

Good luck with your essays, and I hope you continue to find Saturn -- its moons and its rings -- as interesting as I do!

Dr. Jeff Cuzzi,
Chief scientist, Cassini rings discipline
NASA's Ames Research Center -- Moffett Field, Calif.