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Palmyra student semifinalist in NASA essay contest

Future Engineers and NASA have announced 155 semifinalists in the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest, a national competition that asked K-12 students to imagine leading a one-week expedition at the Moon’s South Pole. 

One of these semifinalists is Livia Bross, of  Palmyra.

                        Livia Bross

“The feelings are nervousness and excitement,” said Bross of what it’s like to be a semifinalist.

“It is like jumping off a small ledge. I know I will be okay, but I am nervous and excited to do it.”

The essay contest was issued in collaboration with NASA’s Artemis Program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. 

Using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before, the Artemis Program will use what is learned on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending astronauts to Mars. 

As NASA sets out to inspire a whole new generation, the Artemis Generation, the essay contest invited students to imagine leading a one-week expedition at the Moon’s South Pole and to tell NASA all about it. 

This included writing about their expedition’s crew and technology, with an expectation of leaving their technology behind to help future astronauts explore the Moon. 

Approximately 14,000 essay submissions were received from K-12 students across the country and over 1,000 eligible judge volunteers comprised of educators, professionals and space enthusiasts helped review essays.

Bross entered the contest through her Palmyra Middle School PACE class, taught by Nicole Gard.

“I wrote my essay at home and submitted it through Mrs. Gard,” Bross said. “It was fun to create the crew, decide what  they would do and design the device.”

Bross was not the only local students to enter an essay. Other participants from the PACE classroom were: Marissa Lockett (eighth grade), Marissa Gottman (seventh grade), Eli Schneider (fifth grade), Audrey Reid (fifth grade), Emma Thornburg (third grade), Alexis Lynn (third grade) and Oliver Gard (second grade).  

While they did not advance in the competition, they received a certificate of participation, and a digital copy of their essays will travel around the Moon and back.

On March 23, NASA held a virtual event, where contest participants had the opportunity to learn about space exploration from speakers including: NASA astronaut, Ricky Arnold, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Kathy Lueders, and associate administrator of NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, Mike Kincaid. 

At the conclusion of the event, the semifinalists were unveiled. 

But there was one more surprise in store for all the students who submitted an entry: NASA will fly a digital copy of all 14,000 essays around the Moon aboard Artemis I. 

As a semifinalist, Bross will receive an Artemis Prize Pack filled with space-themed prizes plus the opportunity to attend a series of virtual Artemis Explorer Sessions with NASA experts. 

On April 7, the contest will be narrowed to nine national finalists, who will be interviewed about their essays. 

In May, the grand prize winners will be announced, each of whom will win a family trip to attend NASA’s Artemis I launch at Kennedy Space Center. 

For contest details, including a full listing of the 155 state/territory semifinalists, visit:

Editor’s note: the following is Livia Bross’s semifinalist essay:

Mission Ice/Beacon

by Livia Bross 

There are six in this crew.  1z, the leader, is a determined Air Force Major, 2B is a cheerful astronomer, 3X is an aggressive technician, 4d is a programmer who acts like he owns everything, 5v is a considerate technician, and 6F is a helpful nurse.  All are strong and brave.

I would want these skills and personalities because I believe they are all necessary and balance each other at least a little. 6 is a good number because the crew can multitask without anyone being alone.

The mission is to collect lunar ice, place the Beacon, and explore.

For the first three days, they will collect ice samples and set up the Beacon.  

The Beacon is an AI-controlled, mobile, broadcasting, storage, and collection unit.  It broadcasts where it is for navigation, uses retractable grappling-hook arms to stay in place and to move, and sends what it collects to a programmed location in airtight containers.  The Beacon can be disassembled and moved.  Also, the Beacon should be updated regularly. 

For the last three days, the crew will test the Beacon and explore.