Keep Your Day Job: Cassini Tour Designer

This is the first edition of a series of videos and interviews with people who have fascinating jobs in science fields. These are the kinds of jobs you would want to keep and we want to learn more about! Hope you enjoy!

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” ~ Carl Sagan

I recently heard from an acquaintance that they worry that science and skepticism lacks visionaries and that science is too rigid to allow for creativity. I would happily argue that art, science and the creative process has and will continue to be tightly intertwined. Thinking outside the realms of what we know to be real is often how a hypothesis is formed. Science itself is built upon hundreds of years of people asking the question, “what if” and then using the scientific method to find the answer to that question. Much in the same way an artist would use available materials and creatively assemble those materials to create a new never-before-seen piece of art, a scientist rearranges materials and the knowledge available to him or her to find some new truth or element or create something new and fantastic in a lab. Science, though rigorous in its collection of evidence is inspired by the unbridled creative thoughts of humankind.

An excellent example of this type of creative thinking and rigorous science working together in harmony is in the exploration of outer space. Our collective imaginations are inspired when we think of the wonders of potential discoveries in the vast uncharted territories of outer space and within the newly discovered worlds light-years away from our own.

I was lucky enough to run into a man who has first hand experience with the important role of creativity within the realm of scientific discovery.

John Smith is a Cassini Mission Planner at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has been involved with the Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan since 1990. John has designed missions to explore the planets for more than two decades.

Click below to hear the interview.

*All Images Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. (awesome!)
Thanks to Rebecca for putting the video together.
And of course special thanks to John Smith for taking the time to talk with me!

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Can’t see the video from work, but I will watch it when I get home. That being said, I worked for JPL for 8 years, and quit not quite two years ago. While I loved my job and what I worked on (all the Mars projects starting with the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and going through to Mars Science Laboratory which was due to launch last year but got postponed), during my work on MSL, the lab definitely became much more political, and the management went to hell in a handbasket. It got to the point it was difficult to do your job on a daily basis. I dreamed of working there my whole life, and never dreamed I would leave. It was a decision I struggled with for 2 years and finally decided I had to. Some are free to dream and design, others are tied so tight you can’t even suggest anything. It was really depressing to watch things go the way they had, and leaving was the best thing I had ever done.

    Unfortunately, NASA gets a new boss quite often, as the NASA administrator is appointed by the prez, which means each one’s ideas for the goals of NASA differ dramatically. Many people leave and then return after years of working in corporate America. While I don’t rule that out, it will be a long time before NASA gets the recognition it once had, and with that the funding. I love these kinds of stories, and they make me dream of the day that NASA is restored to it’s once great role in America. Until then, I am loving working where I am getting to try out what I dream up every day.

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