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Unveiling the Universe: Bergen Tech Senior Wins NASA’s Power to Explore Challenge

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, in the realm of space exploration, the journey to uncover the mysteries of our universe often begins with a single idea, a spark of curiosity that propels us forward into the unknown. For Bergen Tech senior Thomas Liu, from Ridgewood that journey has culminated in a remarkable achievement: being named the national high school division winner of NASA’s Power to Explore Challenge.

Now in its third year, this prestigious writing competition serves as a platform to educate students about the revolutionary potential of radioisotope power systems in space exploration. These nuclear batteries have unlocked new frontiers, enabling spacecraft to delve into the most forbidding corners of our solar system with unprecedented ease.

Out of 1,787 submissions spanning grades K-12 from across 48 states and Puerto Rico, Liu’s essay emerged as a beacon of innovation and insight. His 250-word composition proposes a groundbreaking mission: utilizing radioisotopes to explore Ariel, one of Uranus’ brightest moons. What sets Ariel apart is not just its luminosity, but the enigmatic depths of its canyons, plunging a staggering 30 kilometers into the moon’s surface.

Explaining the rationale behind his proposal, Liu elucidates the challenges posed by Ariel’s harsh environment. With solar energy virtually negligible at a mere 1% of Earth’s, traditional power sources falter. However, radioisotope power systems offer a solution, providing the vital heat needed to sustain instruments amidst temperatures plummeting to -213 degrees Celsius.

In recognition of his visionary ideas, Liu, alongside other contest winners, has been extended an exclusive invitation: a tour of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. This summer, they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the forefront of space exploration, witnessing firsthand the cutting-edge technologies shaping our cosmic endeavors.

As we embark on this voyage of discovery, let us celebrate the ingenuity and passion of young minds like Thomas Liu, whose quest for knowledge knows no bounds. To learn more about the transformative potential of radioisotope power systems, visit and join us in unlocking the secrets of the universe.


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