Design a satellite mission competition

Enter the NZ Space Agency ‘Design a Satellite Mission’ competition. Think of ways a satellite could help fight climate change. Write an essay about it and you could win cool prizes!

Did you know New Zealand is taking part in its first space mission?

Our first ever space mission is a satellite called MethaneSAT that collects information (data) about methane gas. The data will help us work with the rest of the world to reduce methane emissions and fight climate change.

MethaneSAT in orbit

What is methane and why is it so bad?

Methane is a greenhouse gas which means it contributes to climate change by warming the atmosphere. It comes from human activities such as farming and oil and gas extraction. Activities like:

  • Farming animals
  • Leaks from natural gas systems
  • Landfills and waste from homes and businesses

MethaneSAT is helping to fight climate change

Cutting methane emissions is the fastest, most effective way to slow the rate of global warming (climate change).

Find out more about MethaneSAT:

MethaneSAT - turning data into action(external link) — Science Learning Hub

Find out more about MethaneSAT's mission to track emissions back to their origins:

Measuring methane from space(external link) — Science Learning Hub

Design a satellite competition banner showing a satellite flying over the planet Earth.

Write an essay and win cool prizes

Can you design your own satellite mission to help fight climate change?

Satellites orbit the Earth and are part of our everyday lives. The information they beam down to us helps farmers irrigate their fields and plant their crops; lets us surf the Internet, tells us about effects of climate change on the weather, allows us to pay for things, tells us how to get somewhere and keeps us safe when we’re flying.

What else could satellites be used for?

Write an essay about your space mission (up to 500 words) and how your satellite could help fight climate change. You can be as creative as you like. Maybe your satellite can track wild-fires, floods or droughts; maybe it could track animals affected by climate change, like polar bears or the Little Blue Penguin; or grow vegetables in space; or look for water on other planets. We’re looking for creative solutions for humans to fight climate change and live better lives here on Earth.

Help getting started

Before you start writing, consider some of the questions below.  The answers and links to resources and videos provide real-life examples of satellite missions. Your satellite may be able to help solve some of the issues or make tweaks to existing missions. The resources also have key vocabulary that you may find useful.

Prizes

First place winners from each age category will win a Lego set of the International Space Station complete with robotic arm to launch satellites into orbit. (Note: students under the age of 16 should be supervised by an adult when using this prize.)

Second place winners from each age category will win a set of mini planets.

Competition rules

This competition is open to all students in New Zealand in Years 7 to 10.

Teachers: We encourage you to make the essay a class activity or assignment, if you wish. You can decide whether you want your students to work alone on the essay, or in groups of up to four students.

  • Students can work alone or in teams of up to 4 students.
  • All submissions must be students' original work. Entries containing plagiarized material will be disqualified.
  • Each student may submit only one entry. Previous winners of the New Zealand NASA Scientist for a Day competition may submit an essay to this competition but are not eligible for a prize.
  • Do not include direct contact information for students under age 18. All communication will be conducted between the New Zealand Space Agency and the students' teacher, parent, or guardian.
  • Essays that are longer than 500 words will be disqualified.
  • The names and contact information will not be included in the word count for the 500-word essay. No personally identifying information (name, school name, city) should be included in the body of the essay.
  • For the purpose of this contest, students do not need to include a bibliography. Teachers who are making the essay a class assignment may decide whether a bibliography is required, but a bibliography is not required for the purposes of the contest.
  • Use only plain text (no images or attachments). Attachments cannot be accepted. Do not include URLs (links to websites) in the body of the essay.

Communication skills are an important part of being a scientist. Spelling and grammar will be considered in addition to the ideas expressed in the essay.

Essays will only be judged in comparison with other essays from the same year group:

  • Year 7 & 8
  • Year 9 & 10

Deadline for Entries: 5pm, Friday 30 September, 2022

To enter the competition

By participating, students agree to their essay being published, as excerpts or in their entirety, on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website, along with the authors name, year group and school.

Entries must be submitted by teachers, parents, or guardians, not by the students themselves.

Essays must be submitted by the deadline. Essays submitted outside of the deadline may not be accepted for entry in the competition.

Documents should be submitted only in Word or PDF format only. Any other document formats will not be accepted.

Entries and other specified information should be sent to the New Zealand Space Agency nzspaceagency@mbie.govt.nz 

Instructions for teachers

We encourage essays to be submitted by students’ teachers.

You are welcome (and encouraged) to use this competition as a class activity or assignment.

When submitting your student’s essay, please also include the following:

  • Your name, email address, contact number and the name of the school,
  • The name(s) and year level of all students who have contributed in each essay (a maximum of four students per essay)

Please submit each essay only once, either by the student’s teacher or parent/guardian, but not both.

Instructions for parents

We encourage essays to be submitted by students’ teachers, however if a teacher cannot submit an essay to the competition, a parent or guardian may submit on their student’s behalf.

If this is part of a class activity or assignment, please let your students’ teachers know.

Please submit each essay only once, either by the student’s teacher or parent/guardian, but not both.

When submitting your student’s essay, please also include the following:

  • Your name, email address, contact number – noting you are a parent or guardian
  • The teachers name, contact details and school. 
  • The name(s) and year level of all students who have contributed in each essay (a maximum of four students per essay).

In the event your student’s essay is selected as a winner, parents or guardians will be required to provide their written consent for the student’s image, name, year group and school name to be published alongside their essay on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

What happens next

All entries meeting the prescribed requirements will be submitted for judging by the judging panel. The decision of the judges is final.

The teacher (parent or guardian) who submitted the winning essays will be contacted after the judges have selected the winners.

Winning essays will be posted on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Any questions?

Contact us here at the Space Agency: nzspaceagency@mbie.govt.nz

Last updated: 15 August 2022