Utah Catholic student, a Girl Scout, shoots for the moon and wins

Karissa Amante, a fifth-grade student at St. Olaf Catholic School in Bountiful, Utah, pictured in this Nov. 21, 2022, photo, is one of the winners of the national “Girl Scouts to the Moon and Back” essay contest. Her prize is a Space Science badge aboard the uncrewed Orion spacecraft of NASA’s Artemis I mission. As of Dec. 8, the spacecraft was on its way back to earth. (CNS Photo courtesy of St. Olaf Catholic School)

By Linda Petersen

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Karissa Amante, 10, a fifth-grade student at St. Olaf Catholic School in Bountiful, is flying high after winning a prize in a national Girl Scout essay contest.

But Karissa will have to wait a while for her prize. As of Dec. 8, it was on its way back to Earth after flying to the moon on NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft that is part of the Artemis 1 mission.

The test flight is part of the space agency’s program set to send the first woman and the first person of color to the moon.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first female launch director for NASA, is a former Girl Scout.

Last spring, Karissa entered the Girl Scouts of the USA “Girl Scouts to the Moon and Back” essay contest. She recently learned that she is one of 90 winners — and one of just 15 junior Girl Scout winners — nationwide.

Each girl will receive a Space Science badge that is part of the space flight’s cargo. The Artemis launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Nov. 16. It traveled approximately 40,000 miles beyond the moon and was scheduled to return to Earth Dec. 11.

“It is very exciting; I’m very happy about it,” Karissa said of her win. “I think it’s very cool.”

The Amante family belongs to St. Olaf Parish. Karissa has been a Girl Scout for more than two years. She entered the contest with the encouragement of her mother, who had been following the Artemis project.

“I was really excited to hear they were going to put the first woman on the moon, so when the opportunity came up to do an essay, I knew it would be something that Karissa would be passionate about and want to enter,” said Kristen Amante, who herself participated in a Girl Scout troop sponsored by St. Olaf Catholic School when she was younger.

“I had a great experience. I thought it was great to be able to empower girls, and I wanted my daughter to follow in those footsteps,” she told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

In her winning essay, Karissa told the story of the first girl who goes to the moon and is able to start the first colony there. Years later, when Earth is no longer habitable because of climate change, she is able to save mankind by providing a home for humans on the moon.

“I think it is incredible,” she said of the prospect of women going to the moon. “I think women should get equal opportunities to men.”

Karissa is excited to receive the Space Science badge, which she plans to display in her room.

“I am proud and happy that Karissa had this opportunity to write an essay,” said her father, Paul Amante. “She has always been extremely talented from a verbal perspective. She has always been really bright in all her subjects and writing, spelling, language arts is one of her strengths.”

“So, I’m very happy to see her lean into that and use the talents that she has and continue to write,” he added. “She wants to now join more essay contests and challenge herself more. This has inspired her to want to go further with this type of activity.”

Cindy Marten, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and a lifelong Girl Scout, and Pam Melroy, NASA deputy administrator, recorded videos congratulating the winners.

The essays are “a testament to your intellect, creativity, courage, entrepreneurship and even your sense of humor,” Marten said. “My hope is that this essay contest has given you the confidence to know that you all have what it takes to be future barrier breakers and leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Melroy also was a Girl Scout when she was a youth.

“It’s your generation, the Artemis generation, that will ultimately do the work that takes us to Mars and beyond,” she said in her message. “We hope this is just one step in a journey to a STEM career and maybe even to NASA and beyond.”

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