2011 Cassini Scientist for a Day

Graham Doering (left) and Mikayla Castillo both placed in the 2011 Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest. Doering won while Castillo finished asa honorable mention.

Travis Roemhild/AFN

The Cassini spacecraft has been giving scientists information about Saturn and its moons for the past seven years. In that time much has been learned about the gaseous planet and its intriguing moons, such as Titan.

Because of this interest, NASA created the Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest for students around the world.

Two Ahwatukee Foothills seventh-graders at Kyrene Centennial Middle School took to the challenge and came away victorious.

Mikayla Castillo received an honorable mention and Graham Doering was one of nine winners of the essay contest. They each picked one of three essay prompts regarding the Cassini mission and Saturn's planets and moons, and wrote a 500-word essay.

"I wrote about Titan because it might be similar to Earth and maybe show how Earth was formed eons ago," Castillo, 12, said. "The clouds and season could have been similar and that is just really interesting to me."

For this year's contest, more than 560 students of 75 teachers from 26 states submitted essays. Doering chose to write about Saturn's moon Hyperion.

"For the essay I looked at what made Hyperion's orbit irregular," he said. "Most moons glibe, but this one tumbles. It doesn't spin like the normal moons."

For winning, Doering will get to participate in a teleconference call with scientists from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"I really wanted to write more because it was so interesting," he said. "I had thoughts about winning, but I didn't expect it to actually happen."

As for their futures, Castillo said she wants to pursue a career within NASA, while Doering's first choice is to become a police officer, but if that doesn't work out, he said science is his back-up plan.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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