judging in progress
Challenge Details
YOUR CHALLENGE IS:

LEARN ABOUT NUCLEAR BATTERIES THAT POWER SPACE EXPLORATION AND WRITE ABOUT WHAT ENERGIZES YOU

Challenge Closed



When you see a beautiful image of Pluto, do you ever stop to think about how long it takes to get there and what kind of energy would power a spacecraft to take those pictures? It takes a special kind of power to gather data at the extremes of our solar system, and now, as we celebrate 60 years of nuclear power for space flight, NASA wants to hear about what energizes YOU!

If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is first to research Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS), which is a type of nuclear battery, and then write about:

  • one or more uses of this special power system in space that inspires you (refer to the BRAINSTORMING section below for examples, from providing power in dark places like a shadowed crater to powering spacecraft that go beyond our solar system), and
  • what you think your unique power is and tell us how your special power will help you achieve one or more long-term goal(s) in your life 
In total, your submission is limited to 200 words. You must also include a title up to 75 characters which will not be included in the word limit.
 
Entries will be judged in three grade-level categories: K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Every student who submits an entry will receive a digital certificate and an invitation to a virtual event with NASA experts, where students will learn about what powers the NASA workforce to dream big and explore. Fifteen national winners in each grade category (45 winners total) will receive a NASA RPS Prize pack.
 
Check out the EDUCATION RESOURCES  to learn more about RPS, its uses on NASA missions, and ideas to help you brainstorm long-term personal goals. Please do not include your name or any family/friend names in your entry! For all entry requirements, please read the RULESGet writing and good luck!
 
 

DATES / JUDGING CRITERIA / PRIZES

You have to play by the rules to win.

WHO CAN ENTER

Individual K-12 students in U.S. public, private, and home schools (including U.S. territories & possessions and schools operated by the U.S. for the children of American personnel overseas). NO team entries allowed! Children and students who live in the same household with NASA employees can enter but are not eligible to win an RPS prize pack. For all eligibility details, please refer to the rules.

JUDGING CRITERIA

Grades K-4
Grades 5-8
Grades 9-12
 
50
POINTS
How well your unique power helps you achieve your goal(s)
25
POINTS
Clarity of description of an RPS use in space that inspires you
25
POINTS
Creativity and quality of the written entry
50
POINTS
How well your unique power helps you achieve your goal(s)
25
POINTS
Clarity of description of an RPS use in space that inspires you
25
POINTS
Creativity and quality of the written entry
50
POINTS
How well your unique power helps you achieve your goal(s)
25
POINTS
Clarity of description of an RPS use in space that inspires you
25
POINTS
Creativity and quality of the written entry

HOW TO ENTER

Please review the Challenge Rules and FAQ prior to creating your entry.

Challenge Rules FAQ

TEACHERS
Sign up to register your class and manage entries. We now support Google Classroom too!

STUDENTS
Sign up on your own, or use a code to participate with your class.

STUDENT USING GOOGLE CLASSROOM?
Login to Submit

STUDENT & TEACHER SIGN UP
PROGRAM DATES
Challenge Launch
15
February
Entries Close
13
April
Winners Announced
24
May
Challenge Launch
15
February
Entries Close
13
April
Winners Announced
24
May

PRIZES

 

Dive Into The Challenge

Lesson Plan Details and Challenge Tips!

1. Links & Lessons

Learn about NASA's RPS

2. Brainstorm & Design

RPS Powers & Your Goal(s)
Links & Lessons
Brainstorm & Design
Links & Lessons
>
Links & Lessons
Brainstorm & Design

Brainstorm & Design

First, dive into the topics below and discover what makes NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) so unique. Then, think about what your goal(s) are and what power will allow you to achieve it/them.
Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Dark

No light, no problem! RPS does not need light to function. Because of this, it can be used to travel to places like Saturn or Pluto. Saturn’s available sunlight is only one hundredth, or one percent, of what we receive at Earth, and Pluto’s is only six hundredths of a percent of the amount available at Earth. Since RPS does not rely on solar arrays it can give spacecraft the power it needs to go to faraway places, or in deep craters with little available sunlight.

Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Dusty

Dust storms are a regular occurrence on Mars. Fortunately, NASA’s rovers Perseverance and  Curiosity have RPS systems that can keep them going even when the environment gets dusty. Explore how Radioisotope Power Systems have helped these Mars rovers with their missions.

 

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Far away

RPS have the unique ability to power spacecraft traveling super long distances. Going the distance takes time. NASA’s RPS-powered NASA’s RPS-powered Voyager twin spacecraft launched over 44 years ago and are over 12 billion miles away and they continue to return valuable data to scientists on Earth. Thanks to RPS the Voyager spacecraft have visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and are currently exploring interstellar space.

Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Longevity

RPS offers the key advantage of operating continuously over long-duration space missions, largely independent of changes in sunlight, temperature, charged particle radiation, or surface conditions like thick clouds or dust. Because it uses the heat from the natural radioactive decay it can keep producing power for decades!

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Rugged

RPS are mighty! These systems are very rugged which allows them to function in extreme environments. Check out the NASA missions they have helped power here. In the future, radioisotope power systems could continue to support missions to extreme environments in our solar system like Jupiter’s moon Europa, the liquid lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan or the rings and moons of the giant ice planet Uranus.

Brainstorming Idea
RPS: Heat Producing

The excess heat produced by some radioisotope power systems can be used to enable spacecraft instruments and on-board systems to continue to operate effectively in extremely cold environments. In addition, Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs) can be used for additional thermal control, especially on solar-powered spacecraft, such as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that explored Mars.

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: Educational

What are you learning in class? Is there a goal you want to reach related to school? Learning to read, write, design a 3D model, recite Shakespeare, or do integral calculus are all types of educational goals. Think of an educational goal and map out how your special power will help you achieve it.

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: Skill

The ability to do something well can also be a goal. Maybe you want to learn to swim, program a microcontroller, or learn to play an instrument. Think about a skill you want to master and decide what special power will help you get there.

 

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: Career

What do you want to be when you grow up? From a NASA engineer to a contemporary artist, think about the steps you need to get your dream job. What special power do you have to help you get your future career?

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: Charitable

Do you love to help others? If the answer is ‘yes,’ consider a goal that helps others. Your goal may be to collect food for the homeless, volunteer a certain amount of time for a worthy cause, or collect money for an organization that helps others. Pick a goal that helps others and plan out how you will attain that goal.

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: Environmental

Think about something you can do to help the planet. Your goal could be setting up a recycling program at your school or organizing a beach/lake clean-up. What steps would you need to take to accomplish your goal? If you are passionate about the environment, this could be a good option!

 

Brainstorming Idea
Goal: You Pick!

If your goal doesn’t fit into a category above, no problem! Feel free to dream up anything you want; the possibilities are limitless.

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Tools

Build & Iterate

FOR THE CLASSROOM

Group Size

Split into 8 teams

Approach

Assign each team a video lesson and have them present what they learned

Material

None

Educator tools

 

Building upon a legacy of over 60 years, NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) program delivers innovative radioisotope-based power systems and technology that enable science missions to some of the most distant, dustiest, darkest, and harshest environments in the solar system. In partnership with the Department of Energy, the RPS Program is a multi-center effort. The program reports to the leadership of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (Planetary Science Division).

In Support of NASA's Radioisotope Power Systems Program