Planetary Radio • Mar 04, 2020

Astronomers Without Borders

On This Episode

20200304 olayinka fagbemiro

Olayinka Fagbemiro

National Coordinator for Astronomers Without Borders Nigeria

20180418 mike simmons

Mike Simmons

Founder and former leader for Astronomers Without Borders

Betts bruce headshot 9980 print

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

Kaplan mat headshot 0114a print

Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

One people, one sky. That motto belongs to Astronomers Without Borders. Its founder and retired leader, Mike Simmons, recently brought a guest to Planetary Society headquarters. Olayinka Fagbemiro is with the Nigerian space agency and also heads Astronomers Without Borders in her nation. Emily Lakdawalla tells us about four exciting planetary science missions that are currently competing for selection by NASA. Bruce Betts tells us about the search for 100 earths even as he asks us to find a citizen of Middle Earth in space.

Mike Simmons, Olayinka Fagbemiro, and Mat Kaplan
Mike Simmons, Olayinka Fagbemiro, and Mat Kaplan Mike Simmons, founder and former leader of Astronomers Without Borders, Olayinka Fagbemiro, National Coordinator of Astronomers Without Borders Nigeria, and Mat Kaplan at Planetary Society headquarters.
2019 Nigerian Girls Astronomy Camp
2019 Nigerian Girls Astronomy Camp The 2019 Nigerian Girls Astronomy Camp organized by Astronomers Without Borders, Nigeria.
Yuri's Night Symposium in Nigeria
Yuri's Night Symposium in Nigeria Yuri's Night Symposium in Nigeria organized by Astronomers Without Borders.
100 Hours of Astronomy in Nigeria
100 Hours of Astronomy in Nigeria 100 Hours of Astronomy Event organized by Astronomers Without Borders, Nigeria.

Related Links

Trivia Contest

This week's prizes:

A Planetary Radio t-shirt from the Planetary Society store AND a Planetary Society r-r-r-rubber asteroid.

This week's question:

Where in the solar system is there a feature named Bilbo?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Wednesday, March 11th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What was Rusty Schweickart’s call sign during his EVA on Apollo 9?


The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the February 19 space trivia contest:

Which NASA Ranger mission imaged Mare Tranquillitatis, the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon?


Ranger 8 successfully imaged the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility in 1965 before being smashed to bits…intentionally.


Mat Kaplan: [00:00:00] Turning young African eyes toward the cosmos, this week on Planetary Radio.

Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society, with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Mike Simmons stopped by the other day, the founder and just-retired leader of Astronomers Without Borders brought along a very special guest. He'll introduce us to Olayinka Fagbemiro of the Nigerian Space Agency. Olayinka is also National Coordinator for Astronomers Without Borders Nigeria. Together they'll tell us that the night's sky unites all of humanity.

Four new missions have made it to the next step in the long road toward selection by NASA. Emily Lakdawalla will introduce them to us. And Bruce Betts brings back his favorite game, Where in the Solar System, with a tip of the hobbits hat to Middle Earth. It's almost here. The new expanded [00:01:00] version of The Downlink will premiere on Friday, March 6th. You'll see it at, which is also where you can be one of the first to sign up for the newsletter.

Here's a sampling of the space headlines Jason Davis collected for the most recent addition. The largest unnamed world in our solar neighborhood now has an official moniker. It's Gonggong, named after a Chinese water god. Gonggong may be a bit larger than Pluto's companion, Charon. The body's discoverers asked The Planetary Society to help with the public selection process. Gonggong won by a 2:1 margin, and the name has been accepted by the International Astronomical Union.

JPL engineers are making more aggressive attempts to get Insight Lander's probe, known as the mole, to get a grip. The instrument is still stuck at the surface of Mars. Now the spacecraft's scoop will press on the mole as it attempts to hammer itself. [00:02:00] Meanwhile, scientists has published results of the first 10 months of data from Insight's seismometer. It found 174 marsquakes. More than 20 of these had magnitudes of greater than three, which I can tell you, growing up in L.A., is enough to shake you up. More to come, no doubt.

The Juno mission has achieved one of its major goals by determining that water makes up about one quarter of 1% of Jupiter's atmosphere. That's three times as much as Galileo's atmospheric probe found when it plunged into the giant world back in 1995. Scientists have long suspected that the probe was simply unlucky enough to enter a- an unusually dry spot.

And NASA has acknowledged that the first liftoff of the Space Launch System, that giant rocket at the core of the agency's Artemis program, will be delayed to sometime in 2021. NASA still says it can return humans to the Moon's surface by [00:03:00] 2024.

Emily Lakdawalla is The Planetary Society's solar system specialist. Emily, great to get you back on to, uh, talk about these four brand-new Discovery program candidates. Could this be the year that Venus finally gets a little more love?

Emily Lakdawalla: It could be. I mean, Venus has been visited by a couple of missions, but by NASA for an awfully long time. In fact, it's so long ago, it was before I was even a graduate student. I was working on Magellan data for my grad program. And that's the last time NASA got any up-close and personal data. So I'm so excited to see two Venus misio- missions in this Discovery down selection, and I think the community is really, really hoping that- that one of them will get picked.

Mat Kaplan: All right. Remind us, first of all, where are these Discovery missions in- in the entire spectrum of NASA's, uh, planetary science missions.

Emily Lakdawalla: Well, Discovery is the lowest-cost program of NASA missions. There's three basic classes of NASA missions. There's Discovery, New Frontiers, and Flagship. [00:04:00] Discovery missions cost around $500 million. New Frontiers are about a billion. And then Flagship are like 2 billion and up. They're supposed to fly the most often. They're supposed to push the envelope, in one way or another, either with the type of instrument that they're using, a type of measurement they're trying to perform, the way they operate, the kind of, uh, propulsion they use, you know, one of those things. It's designed to be rapidly-developed missions that help NASA prove new technologies that they could later go on to use on some of their bigger missions.

Mat Kaplan: Insight on Mars is one of these, right?

Emily Lakdawalla: Insight is one of those. It's not the best example, actually, because, uh, of the way that that year's selection worked. But there have been some really spectacular missions that- that tested really new stuff. Like Dawn going to Ceres and Vesta. We had Messenger at Mercury, which was a fabulous mission. There's a huge number, uh, the Discovery program has really been quite successful over time. The hope is that they'll actually be able to pick two out of the four. They'll pick at least one, but people [00:05:00] really are pulling for two.

Mat Kaplan: And they did pick two in last round, right? Those two, uh, asteroid missions?

Emily Lakdawalla: That's right. There's Lucy and Psyche. Lucy is a mission that's going to explore a bunch of, um, centaurs and, uh, Trojans. These are rather distant small bodies. They tend to be ... They orbit around, uh, Jupiter's distance from the sun. And so it'd be the first kind of mission to go to multiple objects like that. And then Psyche's a really fun one. It goes to an all-metal asteroid. So those will be very cool. And I think, because both of those were asteroid missions, people were not surprised that the four mission down selected in this round, not one of them is proposed for an asteroid.

Mat Kaplan: I can't wait for, uh, the Psyche, in particular, 'cause it's gonna be so interesting to finally see one of those metal, uh, monsters up close. But take us through these, uh, four, uh, candidates that are, that are still competing in this round.

Emily Lakdawalla: Well, we'll talk about the Venus missions first, since, uh, since you mentioned those already. There's two. One's called DAVINCI+, um, the other one's called VERITAS. Both of them were [00:06:00] actually in the final round the last Discovery selection that wound up with two asteroid missions, which is one the reasons I think that people are really fairly sure that at least one of these will go forward. They're quite different missions. DAVINCI is- is one that will penetrate the atmosphere, is studying the- the qualities of the atmosphere on the way down. It's basically an atmospheric probe. It will take cameras, uh, as it's descending. But it's not designed to last a long time.

The VERITAS mission is a- a radar mission, which is, in a way, like Magellan, but it's specifically focused on topography, which I can tell you, as a person who studied Venus once, it is so necessary. The modern kinda renaissance of Mars exploration began with Mars Global Surveyor, which got the first really good topographic map of Mars, that formed the basis of all the rest of the Mars orbital work that's been done for the following 25 years. This mission stands a chance to do the same thing, to develop the topographic map that will the basis of everything we do on Venus for decades. So, [laughs], as you can probably, I'm a [00:07:00] little bit biased.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Emily Lakdawalla: I love my Venus radar. I think topography's so necessary, and I've known Sue [Smecker 00:07:05], who's the, uh, principal investigator, for a long time, ever since I was a grad student. And I- I would dearly love to see her be in charge for a mission like this. She's lovely.

Mat Kaplan: Now, what about the other two? They're going much further out.

Emily Lakdawalla: Yeah. So the other two missions are pretty exciting. They're outer planets' missions, and uh, one of them has been proposed before, and that's Io Volcano Observer, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a spacecraft that's designed to orbit Jupiter and, um, observe the volcanos on Io. It's designed to try to figure out how, uh, all the massive tidal forces that are operating in- in orbit around Jupiter, between Jupiter tugging on Io, and- and Europa and Ganymede also, how that generates the heat that's coming out of Io's interior. Just how much heat is coming out of it, and try to understand better what the volcanism is doing on Jupiter's innermost and very volcanic moon.

Mat Kaplan: Can we assume that it would also have a- a camera onboard, so that we could get [00:08:00] really up close to those, uh, magnificent volcanos?

Emily Lakdawalla: It absolutely would. There's no question. As I've, as I've said before with Juno, it would be a crime to go to Jupiter and not have a camera onboard. This one, I'm sure, would have a- a nice, uh, infrared camera, near infrared, because Io's volcanos are so hot that you can map them, uh, by their heat alone. And so you would be studying at both in like regular visual images, and also in infrared wavelengths, where they'd be illuminated by their own heat. So you'd be able image them both in day and at night, to see the heat that's coming out of the volcanos.

Mat Kaplan: I would only add that it seems like a crime to go anywhere without a camera.

Emily Lakdawalla: [laughs].

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]. All right. How about this last one, the fourth, and- and the one that, uh, will be going the furthest, if it's funded?

Emily Lakdawalla: That's right. So Trident, uh, is a flyby of Triton, which is the largest moon of Neptune, the only actually big moon of Neptune, and likely a captured Kuiper Belt object. It's even larger than Pluto, and is otherwise very Pluto-like in its composition and characteristics. It also orbits [00:09:00] Neptune backwards, so it's probably a captured object. It probably didn't start out its existence there. We know that it has active geysers. Uh, it's just an opportunity to go by, map it, look for changes that have happened since Voyager 2 flew past, um, try to understand the particles and the environment around it.

And you know, Voyager 2, as cool as the flyby of the Neptune system was, it was a spacecraft that was really not designed to operate and get great pictures of things so far from the sun. So this would be the first really good flyby of Triton. Plus they'd also, obviously, get some good close-up views of Neptune. They'd fly past some small bodies along the way, probably, and do some great science, the way that New Horizons is doing science on small bodies in the outer solar system. And it has the distinction of being the only one in the list that doesn't have an acronym for it's name. [laughs].

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]. I don't know if it gets points for that or not. How soon might we be hearing the decision from NASA as to which of these, hopefully two of them at least, [00:10:00] uh, will be headed for space?

Emily Lakdawalla: Well, first the four teams are being given some time to do some further work to try to nail down the costs and the challenges involved in the mission. They can spend a little money, um, trying to develop some of the necessary technologies forward a little bit. And then they, uh, will give big reports to, uh, NASA about their progress. NASA will visit them and see how well-prepared they are to actually operate a mission. And then they'll make a down-selection in 2021.

I don't know exactly when it will be yet, and we don't know how many it will be yet. It will be at least one. Could be two. And um, [laughs], who knows? I guess, well, as long as we're being optimistic we can hope for three. Probably not gonna happen-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Emily Lakdawalla: ... but uh, it would be nice.

Mat Kaplan: Well, we'll hope for quality and quantity-

Emily Lakdawalla: Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: ... in this round of, uh, the- the- the- the Discovery program. Oh, one more question. How soon after they are chosen might we actually see some of these head toward their destinations?

Emily Lakdawalla: Well, it doesn't take all that ... It shouldn't take all that long to develop a Discovery mission. Usually [00:11:00] it's, it's just, uh, somewhere around four or five years to launch. And then, of course, how long it takes to get data depends upon how long a cruise they have. It's very quick to get to Venus, so we could be, as you know, maybe five months after launch y- you'll be at Venus, and already set up and starting to acquire preliminary data.

But getting to other places, like orbiting Jupiter, and flying past, uh, Neptune, take a long time. When you do planetary science, especially if you're an outer planetary scientist, you need to be really patient, and be willing to accept the fact that you might be starting a project and launching, and then handing it over to a former graduate student to operate once it's in flight.

Mat Kaplan: Emily, I'm glad to still be playing the long game with you here in planetary science. Lots, uh, to look forward to, and I'm sure we'll talk again soon. Thanks very much.

Emily Lakdawalla: You're welcome, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: That's our solar system specialist, Emily Lakdawalla, of The Planetary Society.

Mike Simmons discovered our universal fascination with the sky when he started sharing astronomical wonders decades ago. It [00:12:00] led him to found Astronomers Without Borders, or AWB, where their motto is, One People, One Sky. There's hardly a portion of our planet that Mike has not visited, encouraging scientific wonder and curiosity wherever he goes.

Olayinka Fagbemiro is a kindred spirit. She is Assistant Chief Scientific Officer for Planning, Policy and Research at the National Space Research and Development Agency in Nigeria. She also leads the agency's space education outreach unit, so it's easy to see why Olayinka would also embrace the AWB mission. She's had remarkable success as AWB's national coordinator in Nigeria. In addition, she serves as the public relations and education officer for the African Astronomical Society.

Mike called the other day to ask if he could bring Olayinka to The Planetary Society's Pasadena headquarters, as she continued an [00:13:00] astronomy-focused tour of California and the United States. We were thrilled to oblige, especially because I couldn't wait to share Mike and Olayinka's stories with you.

Mike Simmons, always a pleasure to talk to you on Planetary Radio, and it is great to see you here. You've never been to, uh, this headquarters for The Planetary Society before.

Mike Simmons: No, this is the first time in this particular building. I was at the original one, which is a great old Pasadena house.

Mat Kaplan: I miss it.

Mike Simmons: [laughs]. Yeah. And the other one, uh, short-term. This is the first time I've stopped by here.

Mat Kaplan: Well, I'm glad you made it, and I'm especially glad, because you brought the special guest who is sitting next to you right now. Would you please introduce her?

Mike Simmons: Well, this is Olayinka Fagbemiro, from Nigeria. And Olayinka, uh, works for the space agency there. But of more interest to me is that she created and runs, uh, Astronomers Without Borders Nigeria, does fantastic things in the country to introduce astronomy and science to some very special [00:14:00] people. So, uh, it- it's wonderful to have her here visiting us for the first time.

Mat Kaplan: I suspect that most of our audience will know that you were Astronomers Without Borders for many years. You founded the organization.

Mike Simmons: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: And you've moved on. You're doing other exciting now. Obviously, that had to do with why you crossed paths. But how did you end up meeting each other and- and get to know each other?

Mike Simmons: Olayinka reminded me just the other day that, actually, we met at a conference. And I meet a lot of people. I hear from people in other countries all the time. And I always write back, because you never know. She was somebody who went back, inspired by the idea, and created something really incredible. And it's great to be able to do that as a part of Astronomers Without Borders. But really, people are doing outreach and education in astronomy, in STEM fields, all around the world. And to be able to give somebody, uh, uh, some inspiration to do it as a part of the network of people around the world is- is [00:15:00] fantastic.

Mat Kaplan: Olayinka, welcome to The Planetary Society. I ... It looked like you enjoyed the tour.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes, thank you so much. Um, it's a pleasure being here. And I'm particularly, um, excited to be at this place. I love the tour that- that you have, an amazing space, and I'm glad to be here. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: We like it very much, and I- I'm glad that you've had a good time as we showed you around.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: You got a- a nice, uh, introduction to LightSail from Bruce Betts, our Chief Scientist.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, yeah. It's really great, because that's, um, the first time, uh, hearing about this particular project, and I think it's amazing. I would let it go back home and share with my network and- and see what more we can learn and inspire little kids about- about that. I think it would be a great, um, topic to discuss.

Mat Kaplan: [French 00:15:50]. We hope so, anyway. I- I certainly agree with you. It was only two or three days ago that Mike let me know that you were in town, and he wondered if you'd be [00:16:00] able to stop by. And of course, we love visitors. I was intrigued immediately, because he talked about your role with Astronomers Without Borders in Nigeria, but he also said that you have a day job. You work with ... Is it the N-?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: The Nigerian Space Agency?

Mat Kaplan: Yes, yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes, yes. Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Tell me about that.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: When I left university in the year 2004, I started a job with the Nigerian Space Agency in the year 2007, as an outreach and an education officer for- for space education. I've been there ever since. And along the line I- I got involved some other projects, and um, and Astronomers Without Border, like, um, universe awareness. And it's been awesome, like having a day job, and then having the time to do this other very important work. I- I think it's, it's a great thing for me, because I get, eh, the chance to inspire little ones. We're trying to raise the [00:17:00] next generation of space scientists, and- and- and STEM guys in Africa.

Also, I'm the Public and, um, Education Officer for Ash- ... African Astronomical society. What I do in Nigeria, I- I do by extension across Africa, African Astronomical Society is, um, an organization with a very big, um, reach to African countries. I think about 40 plus-

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... African countries are- are- are part of AfAS. One of the major things we're trying to do is first create awareness about astronomy across Africa. Astronomy is not really so much developed in Africa as it is in- in the, in the US and, or Europe. So one of the major work we're trying to do is to create the awareness, get many young people involved in astronomy. We're trying to see [00:18:00] a way of getting more people in the career part of astronomy, and also to use astronomy as a means of teaching STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics-

Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... across Africa. These are some of the many things that we do as- as AfAS.

Mat Kaplan: My guess is that your day job with the Nigerian space agency probably keeps you pretty busy are- are they happy to have you involved with all these other activities like AWB?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes, they- they- they are. And, um, I think, uh, I've got a very good support in the Nigerian space agency because Nigeria has a pretty big country with a population of almost 200 million people and young people are most 30% to 40% of this population. So this space agency is happy to have as many extra hands as possible in reaching out to- to this large population of young [00:19:00] people. And because my role in the Nigerian Space Agency, it's pretty much like an extension of what I do with AWB, Space Education Outreach.

Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: I personally had the Space Education Outreach of the agency and also we have this new space museum. We have a lot of young kids coming around almost on daily basis, which I- i coordinate as well. So it's, it's almost like there are no demarcations between what I do as- as Nigerian Space Agency and what I do as AWB.

Mat Kaplan: That's great. Is that space museum, is that the one you showed us the video of a little bit that was in a refugee camp or is that separate?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: No, that- that was, um, a project of AWB. It- it was a project about having an astronomy hub for kids in the internally displaced peoples camp. Uh, so in Nigeria because of the problem of [00:20:00] the insurgency that we, we've got going on, uh, around the Northern part of Nigeria.

Mat Kaplan: Boko Haram?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Boko Haram, yes. So we have a lot of displaced people from across the region, uh, affected by- by the insurgency. So we have of course people with young children in these camps. A few years back we thought these kids should also have a feel of what space and astronomy and all those funs could be. So we- we- we- we started a project of establishing an astronomy hub for- for these IDP guys. And, um, with the support of Office of Astronomy for Development Cape town, we were able to have the first one, which was a project that was targeted at this young kids who are mostly out of school.

And then we also had to bring in some counselors because we- we needed them [00:21:00] to become ... many of these guys are traumatized. Many of them were-

Mat Kaplan: Of course.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... displaced from their homes. Many of them have one or both parents killed due to the insurgency. And so they are basically not in the right frame of mind to- to even learn. So we had to bring in some- some counselors and- and we went ahead and made this, um, solar powered astronomy hub, which has smart TVs and internet connectivity with a lot of materials and- and videos and, um-

Mat Kaplan: It's beautiful little facility-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, it is.

Mat Kaplan: ... from what I could see in the video.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, it is. It is small, but it's also very effective because we have some people managing the project and what we do is, because we have a lot of kids in this camp, we- we have almost 300, um, young- young people. So we, we've been able to [00:22:00] look for a way to make all of them at least once in a week have access to this hub.

Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, so we have like a timetable of, okay, so you're go in maybe every Wednesday or every Monday and- and use the computer, use the smart TV, you know, just have fun. We have a lot of posters on astronomy and it's been cool.

Mat Kaplan: I'll be back in moments with Olayinka Fagbemiro, the middle of Astronomers Without Borders. Nigeria and AWB founder, Mike Simmons.

Speaker 5: Hi, I'm Yale astronomer, Debra Fischer. I've spent the last 20 years of my professional life searching for other worlds. Now I've taken on the 100 Earth's project. We want to discover 100 earth-sized exoplanets circling nearby stars. It won't be easy. With your help, the Planetary Society will fund a key component of an exquisitely precise spectrometer. You can learn more and join the search a Thanks.

Mat Kaplan: [00:23:00] Welcome back to Planetary Radio. How many children are among the displaced in- in Nigeria? Do you, do you know roughly?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Maybe not the displaced, but- but the latest, um, UNICEF statistics says they're 13.2 million out of school kids in Nigeria.

Mat Kaplan: Wow, out of school?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: Okay.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: So that means this are children within the age of being in- in either elementary or high school who are not. So basically they are on the streets, they are just not in school.

Mat Kaplan: Not good.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: 13, yeah. 13.2 million of them.

Mat Kaplan: Mike, you have been all over the world. Many of the places you go, troubled areas, many of them I suspect with other displaced people as we've heard it described in Nigeria. Have you seen some commonality among particularly young people, kids when you come in and- and show up with telescopes and start talking about [00:24:00] the sky that's over all of us?

Mike Simmons: Well, I don't necessarily take telescopes with me except on the occasions when I can bring something to the people there. Somebody is paid for and there's a way to trans- transport it. But I've seen children all around the world. They are so much alike no matter where they are. I've gotten some good pictures of different races in the same place. Uh, you know, like in Northeastern Iran, uh, the children really I think are always looking for the same things just as- as grownups are, but they haven't been affected yet by the things that happen in the environment. They're still looking for that wonder. They're still looking to discover things. They're, they're ... really ... children are born scientists.

Mat Kaplan: Yes. Yes.

Mike Simmons: And- and that's a common thread throughout.

Mat Kaplan: Olayinka, I see you, you're nodding very emphatically as Mike has been describing this, is this what you [00:25:00] see for these children who have had very difficult lives?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, it's really amazing because I remember the first time we went to the IDP camp and then we with ... when we met with this, um ... the first time we went actually was when Mike, um, sent us some solar glasses for 2013 pa- ... there was this partial eclipse we experienced in Nigeria. And while we were busy distributing the- the- the glasses to different schools and different communities, I figured, yeah, this guy's in this camp, they also should have a feel. So we- we took some there and it was amazing because, you know, they- they- they- they were so exited. They- they- they look through the- the- the solar glasses, looked at the eclipse and you know, it was amazing.

So when there was this chance to- to have this, um, learning hub, uh, astronomy hub, built for this camp. And then we went back, a few of the kids came and they could [00:26:00] recognize themselves from three, four years back and they're still in the camp, you know?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: It- it was depressing for me because like I thought the camp was supposed to be like a stop gap, you know, like you're displaced and then you- you are there for a- a- a limited period of time until you get though, you know, re-

Mat Kaplan: This is, this is-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah [crosstalk 00:26:22].

Mat Kaplan: ... true in so many refugee camps-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: ... they become permanent settlements.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah. They became ... yeah. So when we went there, wi- wi- with our telescopes, it was amazing like looking through their eyes even despite the situations they have, you know, it was really a moment for them to forget about the predicaments they are in as- as refugee in their own countries. They were very excited and of course they were seeing the telescopes for the first time. So the excitement was so much and- and it was really a good feeling for us [00:27:00] as a team because, you know, you have kids who usually sad because many of them are missing their parents who have either been killed or separated from them. You know, and then coming together looking through the telescopes and then sharing the excitement with us it- it- it was really wonderful.

I think like Mike said, kids all over the world, I think they are just the same-

Mat Kaplan: Yup.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... irrespective of the level of comfort or- or background that they have. It's just amazing.

Mat Kaplan: Who works with you on this? Do you have a lot of volunteers who have some science training or are they, or are there people also who are also new to- to astronomy?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: I have, um, a team of young and enthusiastic scientists and engineers, some of who work with the Nigerian Space Agency, some who- who work with other organizations. Some are, um, teachers, some are lectures in- in the universities.

[00:28:00] So this guys are ... we, we share the same passion about, um, popularizing astronomy in Nigeria so they're ... these guys are selfless. They- they give their best, 110% to see that this work. And also I have this other um, network of volunteers and they come around to say, you know what, anytime you have a project, we will want to be a part. So with this people, um, when we have any programs, like when we had this IDP camp project, we just informed them to say, you know, guys, we have this project and they showed up.

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Of course many of them don't have, um, background in astronomy or science or engineering, but, um, we have a way of carrying them along because you know, we have a train the trainer kind of arrangement where okay, we are going to be doing this tomorrow or in a few hours. So if you guys come together let's tell you [00:29:00] what is expected, how you could be of help to the kids. Uh-

Mat Kaplan: We do the same thing with our volunteers for the Planetary Society.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah. So-

Mat Kaplan: Some of them are amateur astronomers-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: ... many of them are.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: They just are excited to be able to share this.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: So- so that's how it works. Like I have this core people who are always there, you know, for every project. They write proposals-

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... get us some of these grants that we use for this project and then we have this other volunteers who only come in on voluntary basis when we have any projects.

Mat Kaplan: Are very many of your volunteers women?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: Young women, girls?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes, uh, in fact. We ... some of the projects we've had to hand in fact it's an ongoing project at AWB Nigeria, is a girls camp. There are more female children out of school than- than the- the boys. Yeah. Because of sudden reasons, some religious socio political culture and- and [00:30:00] a lot.

Mat Kaplan: Well, sometimes you've said just out of fear as well-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: ... because of parents might be afraid to let their daughter go to school where they might be vulnerable to-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes.

Mat Kaplan: ... kidnapping.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes. That's why we have more of these girls in- in the IDP camps, especially the ones that have been displaced from the North Eastern part of Nigeria. The- the parents are ... they don't want them to go to school so that they don't get kidnapped by- by- by the insurgents and on all of that. So you see them, um, just roaming the streets or being involved in- in child labor and- and all-

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... those kinds of things. So I have a- a number of women on this voluntary, uh, on this, uh, on this team. And what we try to do is we want them to be inspired. For example, when I'm speaking to a group of young girls, I tell them, you ... look at these guys, I let them introduce themselves. "This is an ... this person is an engineer, this person is a lawyer, this person is a scientist, you know? [00:31:00] So you also can be like one of us.'

Mat Kaplan: Great role models.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah. We want to be role models to- to them. And I think it's working because it's not unusual after any of our programs you have kids come to you to say, "You know what, I didn't want to go to school before I thought I, you know, like I don't want to. But now seeing you guys-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... I think I'm going to like, I think I changed my mind. I- I- I want to be like you when I grow up." and it's always very great to- to hear such much from- from them.

Mat Kaplan: Mike, you have seen young people coming to programs like this for many, many years. They're not all in situations where even maybe some of the most motivated among them might have a chance to go into a STEM career. But I'm sure some of them do. I mean, what do you see is you ... do you see some of these people first as kids and then see them again later and see how it's affected their lives?

Mike Simmons: [00:32:00] I don't know, that I see the same ones decades apart. I can't follow them like that, but there's so many instances of things where 40 years ago I was running the telescope at Griffith Observatory and someone came in and said, you know, looking through this telescope is what got me into a science career. He didn't go into astronomy. It didn't matter. It's what got him interested.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Mike Simmons: Um, there are others, I've seen that with a little encouragement. All they- they need to continue and- and chase their dreams. I do have contact with people all over the world all the time and I know that most will not be able to become an astronomer or something else. And you know, most people that go astronomy to begin with end up in some other field anyway.

Mat Kaplan: I'm one of them.

Mike Simmons: Yeah, well, me too. [laughing] I mean in a way it's not-

Mat Kaplan: You're much closer to the real thing than I am.

Mike Simmons: Closer to the real thing.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Mike Simmons: But you know, not what I did for a career. So- so things change. But the important thing is that astronomy is something that is universal. It's [00:33:00] in every culture, all through history. Everyone's interested. So it really is the gateway. It's the gateway drug to STEM careers.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]. Uh-huh.

Mike Simmons: And when you get interested, if you wanna go into biology or chemistry or physics or anything else, including cultural things, social things, astronomy is connected to every one of them. It is a way of presenting something like what- what Olayinka does in Nigeria, they can't go around with a chem lab or a physics. And not everybody would be interested necessarily, but looking through the telescope and when we talk about kids, I'll tell you, there's no age limit on that. Most people will never look through a telescope.

Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative], mm-hmm [affirmative].

Mike Simmons: And 80 year old people look through a telescope for the first time, and the reaction is the same.

Mat Kaplan: It's one of the things we've talked about before. And I see this all the time when I bring my telescope out, it's almost shocking to me still. But there are so many people who have never enjoyed the sky, [00:34:00] have those photons come right through a lens from Saturn or the moon since those are the two that everybody gets a chance to look at first-

Mike Simmons: Good ones.

Mat Kaplan: ... and it finds the most exciting frequently anyway. Jupiter with its own Galilean moons.

Mike Simmons: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Same experience. You get to see this all the time too.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, it's really, um, it's even ... I think worse in Nigeria because we- we don't have as much people doing astronomy outreach as you probably have in the US. So an- an average child in Nigeria has never seen a telescope.

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: And so when we go for public outreaches because ... okay, so we have a number of outreaches we do. Um, we have outreaches we do with schools where we carry our telescopes and then, uh, we ... myself and my team, we- we go to schools and- and- and talk to kids and um, let them look at the telescopes. Um, sometimes we go to [00:35:00] public places, maybe like a shopping mall, car park, you know?

Mat Kaplan: In front of a pizza parlor [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah, we had gone, and then you- you set up the telescope, and you see adults seeing the telescope for the first time in their lives and the reaction it ... is always priceless like, wow. You know?

So- so- so we have that a lot. In Nigeria. We have this peculiar challenge of astronomy not being in the curriculum of- of elementary or high school in Nigeria. So you don't have a course or a subject-

Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... astronomy being taught in school. So that is all-, is always a challenge because, so how are we supposed to know of astronomy if we don't get to be taught in school. And so this is how we come in. We let them know, okay, you know what? You can still enjoy the wonders of astronomy. And also at AWB Nigeria, we have the, uh, the teachers training program that we do for science [00:36:00] teachers.

Mat Kaplan: Ah, that's great.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: And, yes. So one of the things we focus on is to let them know that, okay, even though you guys are, uh, you teach physics or chemistry or mathematics or whatever science subjects you- you- you teach, we try to bring out astronomy from each of-

Mat Kaplan: Of course like Mike said.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... these courses.

Mat Kaplan: And mi- ...Astronomy is in all of those.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Is in all, yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Is across STEM.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Is in- in Geography, in Physics So we- we- we let them know that you can use whatever subject it is your teaching. You can find a way of bringing out the astronomy, yeah.

Mat Kaplan: You did something else which caught my eye immediately when I looked at the Nigerian AWB website, uh, which we will put a link up to the website-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Oh, great.

Mat Kaplan: ... on the episode page that people can find a Uh, when they hear this show, you did your Yuri's Night, which I was very happy to see because I'm one of the founders of Yuri's nights.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Oh, wow.

Mat Kaplan: Something I'm very [00:37:00] proud of.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Wow.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: That's great. Thank you. Okay, so yes, we- we had Yuri's Night at was really, really exciting. Actually, we had more than one event to- to celebrate Yuri's Night. We had the daytime event and then later in the evening we- we came out with our telescopes and we had people coming around to look through the telescope. And of course, um, we- we told them about Yuri's. Because I think most people know about Yuri Gagarin, you know, as being the-

Mat Kaplan: I hope so.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: I'm not sure, but I hope so.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Not, well, maybe not many people. I- I think for example in Nigeria we- we- we ... I remember when I was a kid, we- we heard about the first man in space-

Mat Kaplan: Yes.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... and it was something that we- we- w- w- ... they told us at that time. And of course, because there was no one to follow up on- on- on those things. So many people ended up not even remembering who he was and- and he did. So that [00:38:00] Yuri's Night, uh, provided the opportunity to let people know once again who Yuri's- Yuri Gagarin was and, you know, the significance of- of- of uh, human space exploration and all of that.

And, um, of course it was an opportunity to look through the telescopes again. And it's always exciting when you bring out your telescope because there are always people who are seeing the telescopes for the first time.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: It's universal. I hope that the people who attended your Yuri's Night celebrations knew that that was happening all over the world on that day.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yes, We- we let them that this is, uh, a global event-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... and that every 12th of- of April, you know, you, we- we- we celebrate this all over the world. And- and so there ... um, we are planning, the- the one for 2020 already-

Mat Kaplan: Excellent.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... because, yeah, ... People are looking forward to, you know, like, so when are we going to have Yuri's Night again? You say, "Okay, just wait, just wait."

Mat Kaplan: Just comes once a year [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Let me ask you about one of the project, and I don't know how much you [00:39:00] have to do with this, but I saw it on the AWB site for Nigeria and that was a chance that some students had to send some seeds into the stratosphere. Not into space, not yet anyway, but at least up above most of the atmosphere. Did you, did you work on that?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah. Yes. Um, so we- we had the opportunity of working with Asgard project, Asgard project in- in Brussels, in Belgium. They've done it for a couple of years before I- I got, uh, involved. And then he says, this would be a great opportunity to bring, uh, because they, they've never had any African team in the project. And I said, yeah, that sounds really cool. Like we have, um, I have a lot of people that work with me who would be able to come up with projects that students cou- could do and- and fly to the edge of space.

And so we started, well, of course we needed the funds to bring the kids to- to Brussels. Fortunately for us, we- we got the [00:40:00] support of the Nigerian Army.

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: There's ... they have a, um, a school, the Nigerian Army runs a- a school. And so we- we got the funds to take students from that school for the project. And it was really a life changing event for them because the project basically was, we- we had some samples of Nigeria, um, seed crops.

Mat Kaplan: Quite a variety, yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: A variety, and- and then we- we- we launched on the stratospheric balloon to the edge of space and we brought them back. And the idea was to complete their experiment, we had to plant the ones from spa- ... from the edge of space and the one that didn't go, you know, we wanted the kids to see the different. Like okay, so how- how different, would this work? And then, you know, it- it was a great opportunity for- for- for us.

And during the- the project we were also able ... the kids met with, um, Dirk Frimout, he's a, he's famous, uh, [00:41:00] Belgian astronauts.

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: You know, it was the first time they were seeing an astronaut. So that was also a high point of- of the program. And- and I think we're also looking forward to this year's um, Asgard.

Mat Kaplan: I hope that at some point they can send these young people the seeds into space. I mean, maybe there'll be able to get them on a suborbital flight or even better yet up to the-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: That would be-

Mat Kaplan: ... international space station where there are a lot of major companies that are doing the same thing.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: We- we look forward to that, we really look forward-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... to that.

Mat Kaplan: Before we end, I wanna hear about your trip here because Mike told me you're not on official business. You paid your way to come over.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: What brought you to America? Why are you here?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Actually, I've wanted ... we've wanted to do this for a long time because, uh, of what I do in Nigeria with Astronomers Without Borders. And so when I- I thought coming here would afford me the opportunity of [00:42:00] meeting people like you.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Mike has taken me to so many places. Like I've, I've been really greatly inspired, you know, going to [inaudible 00:42:08] and observatory, descriptive, you know? We went also to the California Science Center and all of that. So-

Mat Kaplan: It's built underneath the space shuttle I'm told.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah. Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Endeavor.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: So, so when we- we- we tried to look for fun, you know, we, we couldn't really, because that's one of the major challenges we face working in Africa, in Nigeria there mostly you don't have to get funds and- and grants to- to do major projects or travel. So I said, okay, fine. You know what, we ... I- I can plan towards this for a year. I could put in some personnel savings and uh, with the help of a few friends and, you know, I was able to make my way here. Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: That's great.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: So-

Mat Kaplan: Right above us here. If you go out to the parking lot, you'll see Mount Wilson-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: ... and you [00:43:00] were up there enjoying the view. I know.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: Which has two, count them two of what were at the time, the largest telescopes-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: The largest telescopes. Yes, I- I was, I was taken on a tour of the 60 inch and the 100 inch telescope. It- it was like the best thing I've seen in recent time. You know, it's really very, very inspiring for me. I think that is the more reason I- I knew I had to be here. Because-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: ... going back home, you know, I ha- ... I'm going by with lot of- of knowledge, a lot, a lot of experience, a lot of things that would really improve on- on what I do back home.

Mat Kaplan: Hmm.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Of course, I look forward to having an opportunity to- to- to let some of my team members also come around to- to- to visit and see these places. And then when I talk to kids sometimes, you know, I show them pictures of things I had not seen myself, you know, I just told them, okay, [00:44:00] this is how this is, but now you know, with all these things I have-

Mat Kaplan: It's different-

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Yeah.

Mat Kaplan: ... when you've been there,

Olayinka Fagbemiro: It's different. Yes. So now I'm, I'm telling them like a firsthand experience of, of what transpired. I think it would really good long way too.

Mat Kaplan: When do you head home?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Tomorrow I'll be off to Seattle to attend the AAAs meeting the American, um, Association of Ad- ... for the Advancement of Science meeting. And, um, after that I head back to Abuja.

Mat Kaplan: I am so glad that you were able to make it here as part of this trip across the United States, North America. And it really has been an honor to have you here as a ... in our studio and to tell us about this experience.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: The pleasure is mine. Thank you so much for having me here.

Mat Kaplan: You're very welcome.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: And thanks so much for the opportunity.

Mat Kaplan: Mike, same to you. Always a pleasure. You must be, pride may be the wrong word because she achieved this on her own.

Mike Simmons: I know.

Mat Kaplan: But to be able to work with people like [00:45:00] Olayinka around the world has to make you feel pretty good.

Mike Simmons: It's incomprehensible to me really that I got to a place where I have this kind of opportunity. Uh, starting Astronomers Without Borders seemed like a good idea, but it's really always been the people in the community that- that made things really happen.

Olayinka is an inspiration, really. I'm the lazy one. I get to just talk to people-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Mike Simmons: ... and they go out and do all the work. I'm kind of like the Huck Finn of astronomy.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]. Mike, I think I've called you Johnny Astro seed-

Mike Simmons: [laughs].

Mat Kaplan: ... or something like that in the past.

Mike Simmons: Well, you know, but it takes, it takes a village. It really does, and it just happens to be a place where that village doesn't have any borders. Um, sitting here looking right now at a portrait of Carl Sagan, one of the founders of the Planetary Society who was one of the first people to really popularize the idea that we're, we're all in this together. We're on [00:46:00] this-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Mike Simmons: ... little pale blue dot as he called from the voyage or picture. And when we look out into the sky and we see the same things and we have the same sense of wonder, the same sense of awe, and the same sense of belonging to something much bigger. And we can bring that feeling to earth and realize that we're all crew members and spaceship earth as Buckminster Fuller called it. And that we really have much more in common than all these little details that separate us.

Mat Kaplan: One people. One sky, right? Olayinka, have you had any impression that he has ever been lazy in his life?

Olayinka Fagbemiro: No way.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Like- like Mike, it's ... he's, he's a great support for- for ... You know, when Mike tells the story. I'm like, okay, maybe ... you know, I remember meeting Mike, and he said, okay, you could do that? I said, okay, fine. And then I'd go back to Nigeria and then I started [00:47:00] AWB Nigeria. But every step of the way, Mike there, you know, supporting 110%. You know, like guiding us on- on what we need ... We needed to do at the time. And then encouraging every step I took. And I think that really made me want to do more because each time we had a, uh, program then we do something, Mike would be like, "Wow, this is amazing." I'll be like, "Okay." It's really amazing to- to have, you know, Mike all through the way, you know, helping all along and being the inspiration that- that, uh, really got us going. I think it's, it's great.

Mat Kaplan: I hope that you will continue to inspire each other and- and many other people, uh, not just in Nigeria but around the world. Uh, we need more of you. Thank you both very much and, um, enjoy. Have a good safe trip home and, uh, a wonderful time when you return to Nigeria. Olayinka.

Olayinka Fagbemiro: Thank you, very much.

Mat Kaplan: And Mike, [00:48:00] we'll talk again.

Mike Simmons: Oh, I hope so.

Mat Kaplan: Time once again for what's up on planetary radio here is the chief scientist of the Planetary Society. That's Bruce Betts who, um, has his hand in a lot of things going on at the society, including a brand new campaign to, uh, support the search for not just one, not just two, not three earths but a hundred earths. Welcome.

Bruce Betts: [laughs]. Thank you. Yes. We're a working with the Debra Fischer exoplanet Hunter extraordinaire and her team, including, uh, she's at Yale and Joe Llama at ... well, you talked to him last week at a-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Bruce Betts: ... at Lowell observatory. And we're doing a campaign to help support the replacement of a super high tech, uh, fiber optic component, basically, a photonic crystal fiber. So you can get, uh, more details on this cool effort to try to find 100 earth like planets or at [00:49:00] least earth sized planets around other nearby stars. Uh, you can go to, the numeral 100 followed by earths and, uh, and learn more.

Mat Kaplan: If you are listening to this on the radio and you, uh, miss the ... I'm not sure if I left it in there or not because of course the radio version of the show is generally shorter. Uh, but it's in the podcast version. If you wanna hear more about, uh, the 100 Earths project from Debra and Joe, because as you said, they were on just last week. What's up in the night sky? How many earths have you found?

Bruce Betts: [laughing]. One. If you look down at any given time and you will find one earth and only 99 to go.

Mat Kaplan: Still in the habitable zone too, at least for the time being. [laughing].

Bruce Betts: It is, it is. We got a bunch of other planets as I keep, I'm kind of repetitive but you know that's the way this guy works. Uh, the evenings, guy Venus just looking [00:50:00] stunning over there in the west in the early evening, super bright star like object and in the morning sky we got a line up of planets with the that are going to be shifting positions in the coming weeks. Right now we've got, uh, Mars looking reddish in the highest right position. This is over to the East and the pre-dawn. And then bright Jupiter to its lower left and yellow Saturn to its lower left. And then on March 18th we'll have the Crescent moon hanging out and it'll be glorious.

And then the planets will all dance over the next coming weeks.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Bruce Betts: So check that out. If you're a pre-dawn kind of person look- look over in the East.

Mat Kaplan: You know, I just remember tomorrow I have to get up before Dawn to, uh, interview Ann Druyan who with the ... if all goes well will be my guest talking about the new season of Cosmos that premiers on the 9th, uh, March 9th. So maybe I'll duck outside [00:51:00] first. Hopefully I won't lock myself out [laughing] prior to having to interview her on the phone.

Bruce Betts: You should just put a key in your pajamas, just in case.

Mat Kaplan: I don't think they have pockets [laughs].

Bruce Betts: Duct tape it to your forehead.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs] Good idea, never fails.

Bruce Betts: And on, and on that brilliant note, let's move on to this week in space history. It was, uh, 2006 that Mars reconnaissance orbiter went into orbit around Mars and it's still working with, it's amazing high resolution camera and other science instruments. 2015 series, Dawn went into orbit around series in 2015.

Mat Kaplan: That's great. And only after it had orbited Vesta and then departed becoming the first spacecraft to order a orbit, two objects in our solar system, uh-

Bruce Betts: [inaudible 00:51:55].

Mat Kaplan: [laughs] I can't help it. It's as ... I'm so thrilled by that [00:52:00] mission.

Bruce Betts: No, it's amazing. We'll also, I'm sure a warm the heart of our regular listener, Mark Raymond, who was, uh, uh, had two jobs, uh, leading that mission.

One for Vesta, one for Series. No, not really.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs] No.

Bruce Betts: All right. We move on to [inaudible 00:52:18] space factor.

Mat Kaplan: Oh my goodness, you really need a nap.

Bruce Betts: I do. And it's average distance. You could fit more than 6,000 earths side by side between earth and Mars.

Mat Kaplan: Is that all?

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it's Mars, so it varies considerably, but that's a, an- an average distance. But yeah, they'll only a few more than 6,000 earths side-by-side. Now we're hoping that Debra and Joe find a hundred of those that we can stick side by side, for which-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Bruce Betts: ... we're gonna have a more advanced campaign in the [00:53:00] future to find the other 5,900. All right. We already got one.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Bruce Betts: All right. Onto the trivia contest. We asked you what ranger mission imaged Mare Tranquillitatis, that sea of tranquility before slamming into the surface as intended. How'd we do Mat?

Mat Kaplan: I was a huge response. Uh, not a lot of, uh, fun comments, but a few, a few. We always get a good number and I will share some of those right after you tell us the answer.

Bruce Betts: Ranger 8, Ranger 8, the, uh, second successful Ranger that, uh, returned images of Mare Tranquillitatis. Tell us amusing things.

Mat Kaplan: Well, first I'll tell you that our winner, first time winner, Fernando Nagal in Lisbon, Portugal. Another one from across the pond, he said, sure it was Ranger 8. He added listening to the planetary radio podcast is always time, well spent, informative and [00:54:00] entertaining. Thank you. And keep it up Ad Astra.

Bruce Betts: No, that's nice.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you Fernando and thank you to all of you who add notes like that there- there are so many that we don't mention on the air because we're so not conceded. We- we really do appreciate it and I do try to answer almost all of them now in, uh, email. Fernando has won a copy of that great book by Paul Davies that we talked about just two weeks ago. The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information are Solving the Mystery of Life. And we will throw in a Planetary Society r-r- rubber asteroid. And now I can read you some of the fun stuff. Well-

Bruce Betts: Yay!

Mat Kaplan: ... [laughs] Robert [Laporta 00:54:41] in Connecticut and this goes with the next one. The last picture was taken 0.09 seconds, 900ths of a second before impact. [laughs] And so how- how far above the moon was that? Well, if he's right, Vladimir Bogdanov in British [00:55:00] Columbia said that was at an altitude of one and a half meters. [laughs].

Bruce Betts: Seems likely they would have been able to return the picture.

Mat Kaplan: I ha- ... I'm guessing maybe that-

Bruce Betts: But maybe-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I'm guessing maybe it was taken a fraction before that and then maybe ... I don't know how long it took Ranger to transmit its pictures.

Bruce Betts: We'll look into this.

Mat Kaplan: Solomon Jones in Wisconsin. He said so cool that we make so much NA- NASA data free and accessible to all. Unbelievable that these amazing Ranger 8 images are from an unmanned vehicle in 1965. It is a long time ago.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it was impressive.

Mat Kaplan: Pablo Kamisha in Minsk Belarus. He said, six out of the nine Ranger missions failed. So the odds of guessing the right answer were one in a million. [laughing].

Bruce Betts: Well, as long as you knew the three that succeeded.

Mat Kaplan: Finally, our Port Laureate de Fairchild in [00:56:00] Kansas, NASA sent Rangers to check out the moon, but accidents commonly struck, the first six they said to all had big accidents. The shoot and hope bad kind of luck, but finally seven would make it to heaven and Range 8 struck up the band by filming Detritus in Tranquillitatis-

Bruce Betts: [laughs].

Mat Kaplan: ... it showed where Apollo might land.

Bruce Betts: Impressive rhyming.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you again, Dave. We're ready for another one of these.

Bruce Betts: All right,. Uh, it's time again. I- I can't, I can't wait any longer. It's time for where in those solar system. Wow.

Mat Kaplan: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.


Bruce Betts: [laughing]. That's brilliant. Where is yourself pleased with yourself? I love it. [laughing].

Mat Kaplan: [crosstalk 00:56:49]

Bruce Betts: Where in the solar system is there a feature named Bilbo.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs].

Bruce Betts: Bilbo, B-I-L-B-O is in Bilbo Baggins, but just Bilbo. Where in the [00:57:00] solar system is there a feature named Bilbo? I'm just having fun saying Bilbo. I'm sorry. Go to contest.

Mat Kaplan: Is there also one named Frodo and Sam?

Bruce Betts: No, I don't, I don't know why. Well, I didn't actually search for Sam. There may be a Sam, it's probably not as Samwise. I'll look.

Mat Kaplan: Extra points. If you tell us where Samwise and Frodo currently reside somewhere around the solar system. You have until the 11th that'd be March 11 at 8:00 AM Pacific time to get us the answer this time and uh, we'll send you a Planetary Society rubber asteroid and a Planetary radio T-shirt from a That's where the Planetary Society store is and you can check out at our cool stuff. We're done.

Bruce Betts: All right, everybody go out there. Look up in the night sky and think about if you were to go there and back again, where would you like to go there and back again. Thank you and good night.

Mat Kaplan: Second star on [00:58:00] the right, straight on toward morning. [laughing]. He's Bruce Betts, the chief scientist of the Planetary Society who joins us here in Neverland every week for What's up.

Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and it's made possible by its wide-eyed members throughout the world. Join as we look up and beyond by visiting Mark Hilverda is our associate producer, Josh Doyle, composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. Ad Astra.