Cosmic Halloween! Pumpkin Planets Shine in NASA JPL's 2018 Carving Contest (Photos)

JPL's 2018 Pumpkin-Carving Contest: Saturn and Cassini
This tribute to NASA's Saturn-studying Cassini mission was part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's seventh annual pumpkin-carving contest, which was held Oct. 29, 2018. (Image credit: J. Krohn/JPL-Caltech/NASA)

Aerospace engineers can carve a mean pumpkin.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California — the agency's go-to center for robotic planetary exploration — held its seventh annual pumpkin-carving contest this week, and the results were as impressive as you might imagine.

One contestant's pumpkin was styled as Saturn gobbling up a spacecraft — a clear homage to NASA's Cassini mission, which ended more than 13 years of groundbreaking work in the Saturn system last September with an intentional death dive into the ringed planet's thick atmosphere. [More Photos of NASA's 2018 Space Pumpkin Carving Contest!]

Another, even more elaborate design focused on NASA's plans to study Jupiter's moon Europa, which harbors an ocean of liquid water under its icy shell. The agency is developing a $2 billion mission called Europa Clipper, which is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s. Clipper will orbit Jupiter and investigate Europa up close over dozens of flybys, assessing the moon's habitability and scouting out touchdown locations for a future drill-equipped, life-hunting lander. 

The JPL Halloween tribute featured a pumpkin-based clipper ship on Europa's presumably craggy surface. The clipper — the winner of last year's carving contest — has been run through by a rotating drill sported by a sample-snagging pumpkin submarine, which is saying (via word bubble), "All these worlds are yours — except Europa!! Attempt no landing here!" 

This entrant in the 2018 pumpkin-carving contest at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory referenced the agency's plans to explore Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa. (Image credit: J. Krohn/JPL-Caltech/NASA)

This quote is a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's famous "Space Odyssey" series of sci-fi novels, in which an exploration ship receives that mysterious warning (a very similarly worded version of it, anyway).

There were many more entries, some of which boasted movement and mechanization. You can get an eyeful in this JPL Flickr gallery, which also features some videos.

Editor's note: If you've got a great space-related Halloween costume you'd like to share with for a story or gallery, send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There," will be published on Nov. 13 by Grand Central Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.