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Emily LakdawallaNovember 5, 2012

Soliciting input for an idea on slides

The image below is the single most popular one I've ever produced. It's a scale montage of ever asteroid and comet that had been visited by a spacecraft as of November 2010, right after Deep Impact's Hartley 2 flyby. It's been published in at least a dozen books, and has been spotted "in the wild" in countless presentations by asteroid and comet scientists. That's gratifying, because the reason I made it in the first place is because I was sick and tired of seeing crappy montages of asteroids in scientists' presentations, when I knew that the images could appear so much nicer.

All asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft as of August 2014, in color, albedo linearly scaled

Montage by Emily Lakdawalla. Ida, Dactyl, Braille, Annefrank, Gaspra, Borrelly: NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk. Steins: ESA / OSIRIS team. Eros: NASA / JHUAPL. Itokawa: ISAS / JAXA / Emily Lakdawalla. Mathilde: NASA / JHUAPL / Ted Stryk. Lutetia: ESA / OSIRIS team / Emily Lakdawalla. Halley: Russian Academy of Sciences / Ted Stryk. Tempel 1, Hartley 2: NASA / JPL / UMD. Wild 2: NASA / JPL.

All asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft as of August 2014, in color, albedo linearly scaled

The reason that I bring this up is because I have an idea brewing, but I want to ask for input first. It's my impression that we (meaning both the professional scientific community and the amateur enthusiast community -- space enthusiasts of all stripes) -- could do a better job of educating about and advocating for space exploration as an enterprise, rather than just one or two favorite missions. I know that professionals in particular are reticent to mention other missions besides the one they're working on. I realize that it's really hard to keep up with everything that's going on right now -- that's my full-time job! -- but it makes people sound like poor advocates if all they're advocating for is the project that pays their salaries.

I want to help. I've suggested to a few people the idea of me making a couple of slides or slide sets that give a snapshot of what's going on in space exploration of late, both recent and near-future activity, and there seemed to be interest. I'm thinking of a resource that I might update once a quarter or so, to keep it current without committing to a schedule that I'll find arduous. The slides would be free for public use, as long as they're attributed. But I'm not exactly sure how many slides would be useful in such a set. Just two? (what's going on now and what's going on soon)? Or maybe one for each world beyond Earth that's actively being explored? (That's seven, right now, if you include Voyager at the heliopause; eight if you include the Sun.) My slides would be mostly image with little text, plus some separate notes you could use for talking points.

I am also thinking about making some sets of slides designed to accomplish the same goal as the one above: to make professionals' presentations look less crappy. I was at an event last week where Charles Elachi, the director of JPL, had been asked to talk about Voyager. I'm sorry to say it, but the quality of the Voyager images included in his presentation was embarrassing. Voyager was so much better than he showed. I can -- and will -- do better than that! Stay tuned.

Anyway, feel free to comment or make requests below, or to email me at blog@planetary.org with requests or suggestions. I'll do what I can to help our community present itself better!

Read more: mission status, explaining science

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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