NASA pumpkin-carving contest includes aliens filming a moon landing

The annual Halloween competition at the Jet Propulsion Lab goes to the moon and back.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

A skinless pumpkin represents the moon in this magical creation from NASA JPL engineers.


NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineers aren't just good at building spacecraft. They're also pretty handy with carving tools.

The results of the annual JPL Halloween pumpkin-carving contest are in. The winners are awe-inspiring, but some of the also-rans are just as brilliant. 

First place went to "Lunar Jack-o'-lander," a gourd-eous version of the Apollo 11 moon landing complete with a lunar surface and smoke machine.


Apollo 11 gets a very orange tribute from JPL engineers for Halloween.


The contest took place Wednesday. The teams are allowed to prep non-pumpkin parts ahead of time, but have only an hour to actually carve their pumpkins and complete their scenes.

The other top prize went to "Lucy's Chocolate Factory," a life-size rendition of the candy company scene from I Love Lucy. Lucy's head is an artfully carved pumpkin. 


I Love Lucy comes to life at NASA.


NASA posted photos from the contest to Flickr. There's a pumpkin version of the InSight Mars lander, complete with a fussy mole instrument refusing to burrow into the ground. There's a scene dedicated to the ridiculous storming-of-Area-51 event. It shows a giant alien wreaking havoc on humans.

One of the most creative pieces features aliens with movie cameras filming an Artemis moon landing. A pumpkin stripped of its skin and scoured with craters stands in for the moon.

"It's totally different from our normal engineering work, which makes it a nice change of pace. You don't get to do much arts and crafts in the rover world," said Mars 2020 rover engineer Billy Allen.

The whole array of entries is worth a look. It shows what happens when you let NASA engineers loose with power tools, carving implements, a pumpkin patch and their wild imaginations.   

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