“What is the sun made of? Are the Earth and planets made of the same stuff?”

These are the questions that NASA will seek answers’ for when it launches its Genesis mission in January 2001, and a Lake Highlands student will be represented as part of the event.

The mission will send a spacecraft to collect pieces of the Sun, called solar wind, that may contain the answers.

According to NASA, the Genesis spacecraft will journey a million miles to the star, unfold its collectors, and sunbathe for two years before returning to Earth with its precious cargo. Scientists will then examine and study the solar wind samples.

To commemorate the mission, NASA sponsored a Genesis Mission Patch Design Contest for young scholars interested in aerospace science. Nearly 300 individuals participated in the contest, with entries arriving from 23 states within the United States and three other countries.

The entries were judged on the creativity and originality of the design, and the embodiment of the theme – “Genesis: Search for Origins.” A panel of judges from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory selected four winning patches and 20 honorable mentions.

Jennifer Kunde, an eighth grader at Lake Highlands Junior High School, was selected as the winner in the 9-13 age category. Jennifer says her science teacher, Ron Hargrove, encouraged the class to enter the contest.

“I was interested in the contest because I had toured NASA about five years ago with my family, during the Apollo Anniversary,” Jennifer says.

To design her patch, Jennifer used her computer at home. She focused on the underlying concepts of the mission.

“I knew that the mission was about studying the sun,” she says, “so I used that as my background. Then, I took an image of the Genesis probe and played around with it on the computer to try to make it look more patch-like.”

She overlaid this redesigned image against the backdrop of a fiery Sun.

Jennifer found out she had won from Hargrove who, like Jennifer and her family, was both surprised and proud.

Says Jennifer, “for prizes I received a book about space, a couple of really nice certificates, and the first Genesis Mission poster off the press.”

Will we see Jennifer on future space missions?

“I might think about a career doing something involving space,” she says. “I’m definitely interested in it.”

Jennifer’s winning patch and information about the upcoming Genesis Mission can be viewed at http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov.