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NASA Celebrates Lucy In Space Contest Winners

Just months before the launch of NASA’s Lucy mission, winners of the Lucy in Space Contest have been selected by Arizona State University’s Institute for Human Origins (IHO).  First place winners will receive invitations to attend the spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy’s launch window is open from October 16 to November 5, 2021.

Middle and high school students across the U.S. were challenged to produce creative works of art and writings to make a connection between our human drive for discovery and exploration of our origins on Earth and in our own solar system. Through sculpture, drawings, poetry, and even haiku, students drew connections between the NASA Lucy mission and the Lucy fossil.

The Lucy mission will make history as the first space mission to study the Trojan asteroids, a population of small bodies orbiting the Sun “leading” and “trailing” Jupiter, at the same distance from the Sun as the gas giant. At the end of the mission, the Lucy spacecraft will continue shuttling between the orbit of the Earth and the Trojan asteroids for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years.

The mission is named for “Lucy,” the 3.2 million-year-old fossil hominin skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 by Donald Johanson. Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, is believed to be one of our earliest human ancestors. Similarly, Trojan asteroids promise to help us better understand the earliest origins of our solar system. Johanson is the founding director of IHO, one of the foremost research organizations in the world devoted to the science of human origins, and a co-sponsor of the contest.

Middle school students created a mission “patch” design, and high school students were encouraged to create any type of art or video as a message to the “future finders” of the Lucy Mission spacecraft, imagining what our decedents might one day find or recover as a relic of humanity’s early exploration of the Solar System. All student entries also included an essay or poem explaining their submission.

Middle School Students

  • First Place—Tim Topping, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado
  • Second Place—Jane Hanselman, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado
  • Third Place—Annemarie Stanga, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado
Three winning images from the middle school students in the Lucy contest.
From left to right: First Place—Tim Topping, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado; Second Place—Jane Hanselman, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado; Third Place—Annemarie Stanga, 8th Grade, Littleton, Colorado.
Courtesy of the students

High School Students

  • First Place—Sarah Tran, 11th Grade, Chandler, Arizona
  • Second Place—Aarav Gupta, 9th Grade, San Jose, California
  • Third Place—Tsehai Alfred, 10th Grade, Kingshill, US Virgin Islands
Winners images from the Lucy contest for high school students
From left to right: First Place—Sarah Tran, 11th Grade, Chandler, Arizona; Second Place—Aarav Gupta, 9th Grade, San Jose, California; Third Place—Tsehai Alfred, 10th Grade, Kingshill, US Virgin Islands.
Courtesy of the students

In addition to receiving an invitation to attend the launch in Florida, first place winners will receive virtual visits to their school by Johanson, discoverer of the Lucy fossil, and Hal Levison, Lucy’s Principal Investigator (The winners/teachers are responsible for costs to attend the Launch).

To view the top ten entries in each level, go to

The initial contest blind judging was done by four IHO-affiliated graduate students and four undergraduate students who are Lucy Ambassadors, students in the L’SPACE program who have been trained to teach the public about the Lucy mission. The final selection of the top three winners was done by Carolyn Porco, PhD, a planetary scientist who led the imaging science team on NASA’s Cassini mission from 2004 to 2017, and a veteran imaging scientist on the Voyager mission to the outer solar system in the 1980s.

The Lucy in Space contest was part of an educational and outreach partnership under a Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration. The contest was led by IHO through the and websites. 

Support was also provided by NASA’s Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) Program, a free, online, interactive workforce development program open to STEM undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career with NASA or with other organizations involved in exploration.

Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, is the principal investigator institution for Lucy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. 


Nancy Jones, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Katherine Kretke, Southwest Research Institute
​Julie Russ, Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University