Long Beach

Long Beach first grader is a semi-finalist for NASA STEM competition 

6 year-old Kiki Leone wrote an essay that may land her trip to NASA.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Only 45 out of 1,700 entries were selected as student semi-finalists for NASA’s “Power to Explore Challenge,” and 6-year-old Kiki Leone from Long Beach is one of them.

“I’m super proud of her,” said Mario Leone, Kiki’s father. “It’s the beginning of the future.”

The first grader at Emerson Elementary School, on Long Beach’s eastside, sent an essay about exploring a lake on Saturn’s famous moon, Titan.

“Welcome to my spacecraft Chicken-fly,” wrote Kiki. “My spacecraft is powered by NASA’s radioisotope power systems. It’s a nuclear battery that can last for 14+ years”

As part of the contest, students have to learn about Radioisotope Power Systems, or “nuclear batteries,” that NASA has used in some of its most famous missions and write about how they could be used to explore the harshest, darkest, and dustiest part of our solar system 

“As we're coming into the totality of the eclipse, we wanted to highlight that when sunlight is not available, there are other options,” said Kristin Jansen with NASA, who said Kiki’s essay stood out for its creativity. “Entries like Kiki gives NASA hope for the future if she wants to continue to do this.”

She finds out if she is a finalist on April 8, when NASA will broadcast the total eclipse.

The winners will be announced on April 17 and get to head to NASA to see how radio-isotopes work close up. Those who win will receive a trip for two to NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Contact Us