With 1600-kilometre-long canyons and 42 years of complete darkness or light at its poles, Titania – one of Uranus’s most important moons – would not be at the top of most people’s holiday wish lists.
But ACG Tauranga’s Annie Stokes is not ‘most people’. The science-loving Year 8 student imagines that exploring Titania would be “really cool”. And an essay she has written about such an investigation has earned her a mini-AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality) enhanced model of Uranus, direct from NASA.
A participant in the 2021 NASA Scientist for a Day – Kaipūtaiao NASA mō te Rā competition, Annie was tasked with writing a 300-word essay explaining which Uranus moon she’d like to explore with a robotic spacecraft, and why.
“I thought Titania would be the coolest moon because of its potential to support life,” says Annie.
“If its icy mantle contains enough ammonia or other antifreeze, it may contain a liquid ocean layer. And if it has a liquid ocean, it may have hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which would mean it might support life. That would be awesome!”
Open to Year 7 to 10 students from all over the world, the annual competition aims to give students an insight into the wonders of space and boost their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects and space careers. It’s certainly achieving that goal for Annie.
“I think space is really interesting as it is so vast and has such extreme and varying environments to be discovered and explored.”
Not surprisingly, Annie is passionate about science as a subject. She has been an enthusiastic participant in numerous STEM activities and EPro8 challenges and interviewed Nanogirl (nanotechnologist and science educator, Dr Michelle Dickinson). At the age of just 12, she is already looking to use her natural aptitude for the subject to benefit others.
“I haven’t decided on my career yet. But I’m thinking about something in the medical field, like a surgeon or a medical scientist.”
And according to Annie’s science teacher Brent Smith, she’s definitely got the potential.
“Annie is an absolute superstar,” he says. “I’ll never change the world or discover the cure for cancer – but Annie sure might!”