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Idaho Falls boy named semifinalist in NASA essay competition

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - An Idaho Falls boy is one of 155 semifinalists in a national writing contest for NASA.

Out of about 14,000 students, nine-year-old third-grader Grayson Walters is one of three Idaho students to be named a semifinalist, for the "Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest," which challenged participants to imagine leading a one-week expedition to the Moon’s South Pole.

Parents Jeff and Jocelyn Walters homeschool and say they're always looking for opportunities to improve their kid's writing.

 "We came across this contest back in, November I think. And they worked on their essays, submitted them in December, and then we kind of forgot about it until we got notified a few weeks ago that Grayson was a semifinalist," Jocelyn said.

For Grayson, he was ready the moment he heard about it.

"I really wanted to do it, so I started writing, came up with a couple of ideas, and when I saw that it said write one technology that you would leave on the moon, I thought that was really cool," Grayson said.

He ended up going above and beyond, designing a whole pod.

"So it will have an airlock, so you don't have to wear your space suits the whole time, storage all over, a giant storage room, a new type of wheel that I'm designing. A drill for getting ice, and then a turntable, so you can turn really quickly," Grayson said.

He did have trouble with one thing though, the word limit.

"It was kind of hard because I usually write the long essays, so it was kind of hard to do that," Grayson said.

His completed essay can be read here.

Jeff and Jocelyn say they're proud of what he's accomplished.

"I'm impressed with all the stuff he does, and I mean, he's the kind of kid-like on Pi day, it was the weekend, I was like, "Oh let's take a break, go hiking," and he's like, "Um, I really have all these math equations that I want to work on" and literally worked on that for hours. And that kind of stuff doesn't phase him," Jocelyn said.

And Grayson has big thighs planned for the future, hoping to work for NASA or an agency like SpaceX.

"I've loved learning about space since I was three years old. The universe is inspiring because there are so many possibilities of what you can discover. I hope I can get a scholarship or a job at a space agency someday," Grayson said in his press kit.

Jeff and Jocelyn couldn't be prouder.

"Both he and his older sister Julia love following the stories of astronauts, NASA, SpaceX and the other space companies. As a family, we watch the space station flyovers as often as possible. We watch space launches online and Youtube channels like Mark Rober and Smarter Every Day. Seeing people who are and have been involved in the space industry is really inspiring. We have also visited Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center in the last years," Jocelyn and Jeff wrote in the press kit.

His parents also say he got to meet someone special during the solar eclipse in 2017.

"We had the opportunity to meet astronaut Alvin Drew here in town and listen to talks by other NASA scientists. It was a really exciting day," Jocelyn and Jeff said.

The finalists will be announced on April 7 and the winners from each age group two weeks after that.

Those winners get to go to Florida in November to see the Artemis pod launch.

And all essays submitted from students across the country will be aboard the pod, as it goes around the moon.

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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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