On This Episode
Senior Library Specialist, University of Arizona, and co-editor of Beyond Earth's Edge
Professor of English, University of Arizona, and co-editor of Beyond Earth's Edge
Chief Executive Officer for The Planetary Society
Astronaut, aquanaut and artist
Board of Directors of The Planetary Society; Actor, Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
New Horizons Principal Investigator
Cassini Project Scientist for Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Science Fiction Author
Author of For Small Creatures Such as We
Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society
Beyond Earth’s Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight is the new and outstanding collection of poems edited by Julie Swarstad Johnson and Christopher Cokinos. They’ll join us to hear poems in the collection read by Bill Nye, Robert Picardo, Sasha Sagan, astronauts, scientists and others. Bruce Betts looks away from the night sky long enough to pen his own poetic contribution. We’ve also got space headlines from The Downlink, and a new space trivia contest.
- Beyond Earth’s Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight
- Julie Swarstad Johnson
- Christopher Cokinos
- James Dickey reads and talks about his poem, The Moon Ground
- The Downlink
This week's prizes:
A Planetary Society KickAsteroid r-r-r-r-rubber asteroid!
This week's question:
Who was the original principal investigator on the OSIRIS Rex mission?
To submit your answer:
Complete the contest entry form at https://www.planetary.org/radiocontest or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, October 21st at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.
Last week's question:
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, how many 25-meter dishes make up the Very Large Array in New Mexico? There could be 2 possible answers, either of which will be accepted.
The winner will be revealed next week.
Question from the 30 September space trivia contest:
What 3 Apollo spacecraft call signs were later used as names of Space Shuttle orbiters?
Challenger, Columbia, and Endeavour are the three Apollo spacecraft call signs that were later used as names of Space Shuttle orbiters.
Mat Kaplan: Join us for a celebrity space poetry jam this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome, I'm Matt Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. The book is titled Beyond Earth's Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight. I knew it was something special as soon as I heard about it from its creators, you're about to meet them and you'll hear nine of the nearly 100 poems in this outstanding collection. Our readers are astronauts Leland Melvin and Nicole Stott, scientists Linda Spilker and Alan Stern, authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Sasha Sagan. My former colleague, Emily Lakdawallah, actor director, Robert Picardo and Bill Nye. Later, Bruce Betts will share a little rhyme of his own as he takes us on another What's Up tour of the night sky.
Mat Kaplan: You may have seen the Caribbean from space before but I bet you've never seen it from a solar sail. That image from LightSail 2 tops the October ninth edition of the Downlink that includes these stories, The James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed all the tests of its ability to survive a 2021 launch. NASA will unfold its big segmented mirror and roll out the sunshade one more time before the big scope is packed up and sent to South America for launch on a European Space Agency, Ariane 5. Speaking of ESA, the agency has announced that ExoMars will leave for the red planet on the 22nd of September in 2022.
Mat Kaplan: Have you seen the deep-space selfie? China's Tianwen-1 released a camera that snapped shots of it's Mars bound mother, the bigger spacecraft returned the favor by shooting a movie of its tiny tumbling offspring. Maura's is waiting for you at planetary.org/downlink, that's also where you can sign up to have our free newsletter delivered to your mailbox. I love inviting you to stand with me at the intersection of science and art. They're not so far apart you know? The latest proof of that overlap has arrived with Beyond Earth's Edge. Scientific American calls it, a profoundly stirring evocation of the glory and tragedy of space flight that lets us better see not only worlds beyond, but also ourselves.
Mat Kaplan: That's true but it leaves out the wonder you'll find in many of the collections poems, it includes works from some of the 20th and 21st centuries greatest poets. We can thank Julie Swardstad Johnson and Christopher Cokinos. Julie's senior library specialist in the University of Arizona Poetry Center, she authored the 2019 poetry collection, Pennsylvania Furnace among other works and served as Artist-in-Residence at Gettysburg National Military Park. Her University of Arizona colleague Christopher, is a professor of English who also teaches Science Communication. He is the author of Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds and The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars.
Mat Kaplan: His book, The Underneath was awarded the 2016 New American Poetry Prize. We gathered a few days ago to talk about this new collection and to hear nine of the poems read by my other guests, our readers recorded their selections at home which is why you'll hear the audio quality vary but I bet you'll love their reads just as much as Julie, Chris and I do. Julie and Chris, thank you so much. As you know, I have been looking forward to this episode of Planetary Radio, this very special feature with great excitement. Welcome.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Thank you so much for having us. We're thrilled to be here.
Chris Cokinos: Absolutely, love The Society, been a member for so long, love the show so it's an honor to be on the show.
Mat Kaplan: And thank you for your membership, Chris.
Chris Cokinos: Yeah!
Mat Kaplan: Right from the start, when two got ahold of me and I think it was last spring and mentioned that the book was going to be published. It is out now as people hear this, it has been available from all the usual sources published by the University of Arizona Press, so only about a week ago as people begin to hear this show. I think you wondered, gee is this something he'd want to do? And not only did I want to do it but I immediately thought, oh, we have to read some of these poems. And that of course led to, we need to get a whole bunch of space celebrities to read some of these poems and that's exactly what we've done. It fell to me to pull those together but you had to do all the heavy lifting of pulling together the wonderful poems in this collection, I do highly recommend it.
Mat Kaplan: I was impressed that you started in the preface with the famous work by Walt Whitman, When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer, which I have often quoted on this show but like me, you appear to disagree with his conclusion about science and scientists. Is that fair Chris?
Chris Cokinos: Yeah, I think that's fair. Julie and I had some interesting discussions about the role of science in poetry and wonder. And of course, we thought of the the Whitman poem as you mentioned, I think Julie had some really good thoughts about that.
Mat Kaplan: Julie, I'm going to ask you to read the first paragraph from the book in a moment it's fairly long, but I think it's worthwhile because it's so well sets up what is to come across this collection. And I think your reasoning for putting it together. But I'll read first, just the last part of the Whitman poem, where he is talked about how he's been sitting listening to, what to him is a boring lecture with charts and diagrams and he says, "How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick till rising and gliding out. I wandered off by myself in the mystical moist night air. And from time to time looked up in perfect silence at the stars." While I love Walt, I think he did a great disservice to the vast majority, virtually all of the scientists and engineers and others in this business who I get to talk to. I think that's what you addressed in this first paragraph. Julie, would you read it to us?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Absolutely, yeah. Thank you. So this is the opening paragraph of the preface. "Science can lead us to wonder what Whitman writing in the 19th century cautions against the sterility of too much time spent with the numbers alone preferring instead contact with the night. Further reflection reveals that the diagrams charts, proofs and figures contain their own beauty as they allow us to uncover the gravitational pull of unseen bodies, the boundaries of our sun's influence, the shape of a black hole. Through science, we comprehend the universe and can begin to venture out into it, through translations of science into journalism essays and especially poetry we venture out into imagination as well, plumbing the depths of meaning. We encounter the unearthly on these journeys and like Whitman's speaker, we find ourselves led back to the primacy of wonder, we returned to the night sky and everything it contains seeing a new through scientific exploration the grander of the cosmos."
Mat Kaplan: Well done. Thank you almost a poem in itself. Chris, I assume you concur.
Chris Cokinos: I do. Let me just say one thing, you said it was almost a poem in itself one of the features of the anthology is that Julie and I wrote these sort of essays, really these head notes to the historical sections, that was from the preface obviously at the beginning of the book that John Logsdon has a historical overview. And then Julie and I sort of wrote these kind of literary essays about everything from robotic probes to the moon landings. But yeah, I do, I think that this cultivation of wonder, I've been thinking about it a lot since working on this project, we're at a time where there's a rising fear and distrust of science which is disconcerting to those of us who see it as a force for good and as probably the most powerful way of understanding our place in the cosmos. And I think that the cultivation of fact-based wonder is really key to the survival of our species and I hope the book sort of grapples with that.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: I think that's what we're trying to get at in that section of the preface that, what Whitman saying about going out and being in the mystical moist night air we agree with that sense of looking up to the sky kind of seeing and experiencing what we can see and what we can imagine our way into. But that also, like you said Matt, the work of scientists, the charts and the numbers are also really important, that's the fact-based part, giving us the information to then really imagine, even beyond that.
Mat Kaplan: I often use the example of when I visit an art gallery. I can appreciate a lovely painting but when I hear a docent explain more about what I've seen and provide some of the reasoning and history behind it I appreciate it so much more. And I think that applies to so much of science.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Absolutely. That's a great comparison.
Chris Cokinos: I think so too Matt. I would say it's a form of translation really. It's a form of communicating from one realm, one kind of discourse to another. It creates a sense of participation and community.
Mat Kaplan: I wonder if you share another perception that I have, when you go to popular music there've been a few songs, some really good ones, Space Oddity, Rocket Man, other really excellent songs that have entered our culture but I've always been kind of sad and somewhat frustrated by the relative lack of music and lyrics that the capture what our boss, the science guy calls the passion, beauty and joy of the cosmos, some science and space exploration. One notable exception being my friend, the singer songwriter, Peter Mayer, has this also struck you and was it in any way responsible for this project?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: I'm not sure I've thought about it much in popular music but I think a lot of this project came from, I've had a lifelong love of space myself and I work in a poetry library, I'm surrounded by books of poetry all day and I kept running across poems about space and I was surprised by this. I hadn't set out to look for that but finding that another writers made me really curious about what poets could bring to the table. And I think like you're gesturing to thinking about popular music, sometimes people just will have a mention of space in a poem or just kind of talk about it a little bit.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: But the more I started looking for these poems early on in this project, the more I found writers who were really digging in and really doing research or really coming to this topic with their own love and enthusiasm or with really serious questions about what's involved in the process of going to space or thinking about space. And through what poets bring to the table, I think we get kind of different perspectives on space flight. In popular music maybe it doesn't go quite as deep but poems, one thing that I think poems do well is that they can allow us to kind of sit with something and sit with a small detail and really think about it from a lot of different directions at once.
Chris Cokinos: It reminds me Julie, that when we were first putting this together we had a couple of brief conversations and we talked about Space Oddity, if I remember correctly. It's like, do we include lyrics from various songs? And quite frankly, it became just sort of logistically and financially difficult to do that. One of the things that's hidden behind an anthology like this that readers may not fully appreciate is that it costs money to reprint these poems and to reprint lyrics. And we could not have done that without the support of the Sloan foundation, which gave us to pay the fees to reprint W.H Auden and Adrienne Rich and Nikki Giovanni and all of these wonderful poets. I don't know how much David Bowie's Space Oddity because but I love listening to it.
Mat Kaplan: Listen, we have nine different poems to hear all from the collection, of course, I think we ought to go ahead and get to one of those. And since I've just mentioned our boss at The Planetary Society, the CEO, let's start with his reading.
Bill Nye: I'm Bill Nye, and this is a poem called Origami Crane/Light Defying Spaceship by Narrow Dames Sundar. "Origami crane with big spaceship dreams, crisp Japanese paper painted in peonies, creased into feather and bone and the absence of feet with soft bloated corners because the boy with his toffee sticky fat fingers was impatient. But mountain and valley are not fusion torii and the field of peonies does not limn starlight. Marooned on the faded mahogany table with no hope of sky, dreaming of astrogation, nebulae and the gleam of suns. In its deep paper heart, lantern bright, folds turn into spars and valleys into engines and origami crane skitters across galaxies. Light-defying spaceship with tiny paper dreams, city long spars of iron painted in somber gray, tessellated into Holland spine and geometry sculpted by dead mathematicians because shipwrights with their coffee stained hands abjure ornament and gilt. But bones of steel are not creases like blades and 10 clicks of engine do not fit on a single page, adrift in the empty, beyond well and orbit with no hope of simple pleasures dreaming of mountain, valley, edge and fold. In its sad metal-clad heart, molten as suns spars turned to folds and engines into valleys and light-defying spaceship collapses into a tiny yellowed crane, peonies faded on a shipwrights table."
Mat Kaplan: I don't know if the two of you knew this because I told each of our readers that I thought you had just done an outstanding job of assigning each of them to the nine poems that we're able to include in this show. But did you know that Bill is very interested in nautical history and actually wrote a screenplay along these lines that I got to read once. He loved this, it was perfect for him and I hope you like the reading.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: It's wonderful. And I didn't know that about Bill, but we were kind of thinking about these different readers that you found and imagining their voices and we thought, oh, we can hear his voice reading this poem it's wonderful to hear him read that. This year we did all the proofreading for this book, all of the copy editing and in looking at the book that way you kind of get bogged down in just trying to make sure everything is exactly right. And it's such a pleasure right now to hear them read really as poems again and kind of hear all the connections that run through that poem.
Chris Cokinos: I think bill did a great job, maybe he needs to also put the poetry lecturer hat on and start teaching songs, or something. No, it was wonderful and I hope that you and Bill also caught the sort of sense of the light- defying star, the ancestor of the light-defying starship here maybe was the Planetary Society's LightSail.
Mat Kaplan: It occurred to me and I was going to ask you about that so I will stick with that imagery, whether the poet had it in mind or not.
Chris Cokinos: Right, exactly.
Mat Kaplan: I want to talk about how this came to be. Julie, I read and it's in the preface actually, that this came out of an exhibit that you curated at the University of Arizona: Poetry Center. Tell us about this genesis.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Absolutely. So this was back in 2016, I might've even started it in 2015. But at The Poetry Center, we're a library and a literary center in Tucson, we put on exhibits throughout the year to showcase things from our collection. This exhibit came partially out of seeing those poems, like I mentioned, finding poems in the library about space but it was also partially sparked by finding the painter, Robert McCall, much of his work is held by the University of Arizona art museum. And I found that in that year and I grew up in Glendale or close to Glendale, Arizona and the public library there has a huge Robert McCall mural of space. And so that's kind of been in my mind throughout my life connected to space is these paintings by Robert McCall. But so this earliest version of the exhibit brought together books from the library and showcase some of the poems that are now in the collection.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: We also had a selection of paintings by Robert recall and then also we're showing a series of images from the HiRISE camera, which is operated by the University of Arizona. So it was an exhibit that brought together the poetry, it brought together visual art, it brought together actual images from a spacecraft and that was the genesis of this project, just working and putting together that exhibit. From that, one of my colleagues connected me with Chris and had said, "Have you ever thought about putting this together as a book?" Because by the time I finished the exhibit, I had a huge folder just packed with poems that was more than we could show. And so then Chris and I then embarked on the journey of even making that folder much larger and finally putting the book together, seeking out as many poems as we could to share on this topic.
Mat Kaplan: Chris, what was your reaction when you first learned about this opportunity?
Chris Cokinos: I was thrilled, well first of all, Julie and I we've become friends over the course of this collaboration and so I value that so much. It's great to sort of have a colleague and fellow creative person who shares this interest. And so the process was as Julie said, and her binder was maybe as large as an F1 engine, it was a lot of poems in that binder. Her librarian organizational skills kept us on track, spreadsheets, it was a full on mission control operation and it was a lot of fun to do that exploratory work and think through well, who has done what? And we confronted early on the question, do we want this to be an anthology of contemporary poetry only? Poets who are still alive and we felt, there's a historical sweep here.
Chris Cokinos: And going back as the book covers from basically the Sputnik era into the era of the moon landings and the space shuttle, robotic probes and a kind of science fictional future coming from poets that as Bill Nye read. And that historical sweep meant a lot of work trying to represent a diverse range of styles, a diverse range of standpoints and perspectives and convey the kind of sweep of the primarily American but also, sort of English speaking poetic response to the space age.
Mat Kaplan: They are largely Americans, not entirely, I mean, we're going to hear one by Pablo Neruda before too long, there is tremendous diversity among them though. You mentioned that there are so many more of these that it sounded like maybe there might be room for a second volume with more of a global focus of down the line?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Yeah, we hope. I don't know. I feel like I need to take about a year at least, just nap to recover from all of this. But I think we really, in working on this book, it really kind of gestures to how much interest there is in this globally and that kind of imagining more of this would be something that we hope someone would do in the future or maybe in 10 years we'll be ready to do it again. Since the time we finished this, I keep coming across new books that are engaging with space, new books of poetry even just from American writers again. So I think the interest in this topic just continues to grow.
Mat Kaplan: Chris, are there some that got away that you really would have loved to include it but it just didn't come together?
Chris Cokinos: Yeah, there certainly was one in particular but I do want to say that there is this sort of uncharted territory, Julie and I, neither one of us speak Russian and so what is the Russian world poetic response to all of this? There's a lot of work out there for scholars and poets to gather together. But yes, the one that I most wanted in anthology and we didn't get in was The Moon Ground, which you could find on your own and in fact there are recordings of Ja- this is the poet, James Dickey, important American writer wrote the novel, Deliverance if people know that. He was writing poetry that was being published in Life Magazine during the Apollo era, and he moves from the kind of optimistic, right stuff attitude in a sense, which is perhaps not surprising since he has had a kind of macho persona himself to a stance of an ambivalence and skepticism.
Chris Cokinos: And so we would have loved to have gotten a James Dickey poem in there, but we just couldn't get the rights secured. But I look at his work in contrast to Archibald MacLeish put a patrician poet of letters who was writing at the same time and we have a poem of his as a reaction to the Apollo 11 moon landing probably the two most public facing poets of that era. So we lost out on The Moon Ground but you can find it.
Mat Kaplan: Let's get to another one of these poems, we've got nine in all that you were able to get permission for us to have readings of. There are two poems in the book that are by astronauts. We also have two astronauts who are ready to read them. So let's hear from the first of them right now.
Nicole Stott: Hi, I'm Nicole Stott and I'm reading from Zero Gravity by Gwyneth Lewis. "Thousands arrive when a bird's about to fly crowding the causeways. Houston, weather is a go and counting, I pray for you as you lie on your back facing upwards. A placard shows local, shuttle and universal time, numbers run out. Zero always comes, main engines are gimbaled and I'm not ready for this but clouds of steam bellow out side ways and a sudden spark lifts the rocket on a collective roar that comes from inside us. With a sonic crack, the spaceship explodes to a flower of fire on the scaffold steinem. We sob and swear helpless but we're lifting a sun with our loves attention. We hear the shuttle's death rattle as it overcomes its own weight with glory setting car alarms off in the keys. And then it's gone out of this time zone into the calm of black and we've lost the lemon dawn, your vanishing made. At the viewing site, we pick oranges for your missing light.
Nicole Stott: There are great advantages to having been dead. They say that Lazarus never laughed again, but I doubt it. Your space suit was a shroud and at night you slept in a catacomb pose like a statue so, having been out to infinity you experienced the heat and roar of reentry. Blood in the veins then like a baby, had to find your feet under you, stagger with weight, learn to cope again with gravity. Next came the tour of five States with a stopover in Europe. You let people touch you, told what you saw this counts as a death and a second birth within one lifetime. This point of view is radical, it's fruit must be mirth at one's own unimportance and now although you're famous, a someone you might want much less, your laughter's a longing for weightlessness."
Mat Kaplan: Thank you, Nicole. I can tell you, like all of our readers she was thrilled to be able to read this poem. Do you have any comments on it?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Again, it's amazing to hear her reading that knowing that she's been on the space shuttle and it's a poem about the space shuttle. Something that readers or listeners should know is that, Gwyneth Lewis is a cousin of the astronaut Joe Tanner and so the 'you' that you hear address throughout that poem is Joe on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1997. So it's wonderful to think about Nicole having that experience herself and then getting to read this poem seeing it from the outside, that was a beautiful reading.
Mat Kaplan: And there is a little note to this effect at the bottom of the poem. What does wonderful things putting this in context the way you have for some of these poems?
Chris Cokinos: One of the things that I have found so gratifying in the project is great to hear Nicole Stott read this work, I'm a fan of her visual art. I am so interested in astronauts who come back changed with the overview effect.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Chris Cokinos: And turn to the arts and to communicate their experiences. I'm writing a book about the moon right now and I'm reading a lot about Alan Bean, The Moonwalker on Apollo 12 comes back, spends the rest of his life painting the experience he was too busy to have that experience on the moon and he comes back and he starts to paint. Story Musgrave is one of the astronauts in the anthology comes back, writes poetry, Al Worden, Apollo 15 comes back, writes poetry. And so I-
Mat Kaplan: And one of his works is included in the collection.
Chris Cokinos: Exactly. We have both Alan and Story in the book and Julie and I are just so amazed by and interested in pilots, engineers, scientists, people who are flying in space coming back and turning to the arts. And we talk often about how we need to give them some of those tools before they come back and after they're out of the neutral buoyancy pool, they should take a workshop with us on how to [inaudible 00:26:08]. It's a sense of communications that we were talking about wonder the cultivation of wonder and I think very diverse astronaut cruise these days come back and do some amazing things. So it was lovely to hear Nicole read that.
Mat Kaplan: Well said. And I couldn't agree more. I've had the pleasure of meeting many of these men and women, this description fits virtually all of them. And of course, Nicole is an accomplished artist, her work represents her views of earth from the time she spent up there are really stunning. Beyond Earth's Edge editors, Julie Swardstad Johnson and Christopher Cokinos will be right back to enjoy many more poems with us. This is Planetary Radio. Planetary Radio is once again brought to you in part by MasterClass where you can learn from the world's best and I'll add, most entertaining minds. You may remember me raving about astronaut Chris Hadfield's wonderful course about space exploration while it was so many to choose from, I couldn't decide which course to do next. So I sampled six Jane Goodall, Neil Gaiman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Penn & Teller, and be still my heart Steve Martin! I wish I could let you enjoy the first lecture in each of these they are all so good.
Mat Kaplan: Tyson's course about scientific thinking and communication starts with these thoughts. "What you know is not as important as how you think." and "We are participants in the great unfolding of cosmic events." I highly recommend you check this out, get unlimited access to every MasterClass. And as a Planetary Radio listener, you get 15% off on annual membership. Go to masterclass.com/planet, that's masterclass.com/planet for 15% off MasterClass, I'll see you in class. Let's hear another one I cannot wait to play this because Neruda is a special favorite of mine. So let's hear this one from the only, well I would say, professional in this field of performance among our nine readers.
Robert Picardo: Hello, I'm Robert Picardo and I'll be reading an untitled poem by Pablo Neruda translated by Forrest Gander known simply as Poem Number 21. "Those two solitary men those first men up there. What of ours did they bring with them? What from us the men of earth? It occurs to me that the light was fresh then that an unwinking star journeyed along cutting short and linking distances. Their faces unused to the awesome desolation and pure space among astral bodies polished and glistening light grass at dawn. Something new came from the earth wings or bone coldness, enormous drops of water or surprise thoughts, a strange bird throbbing to the distant human heart.
Robert Picardo: And not only that but cities, smoke, the roar of crowds, bells, and violins, the feet of children leaving school, all of that is alive in space now from now on because the astronauts didn't go by themselves. They brought our Earth, the odors of Moss and forest, love, the crisscrossed limbs of men and women, terrestrial rains over the prairie's. Something floated up like a wedding dress behind the two spaceships, it was spring on earth blooming for the first time that conquered and inanimate heaven depositing in those altitudes the seed of our kind."
Mat Kaplan: Robert Picardo, full disclosure, he is a board member of The Planetary Society and a pretty great emergency medical hologram when you need one you just call out and he appears, it's amazing. That poem gives me goosebumps.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: It's kind of peak Pablo Neruda and Forrest Gander is such a wonderful translator he just brings through everything that you would hope to hear in that poem. That was a wonderful reading. I love the end of that poem when it talks about spring on earth for the first time it's the thing that conquers, is the word that's chosen, that conquers the inanimate heaven. Conquering is usually not the metaphor that I would go for but I think in this sense the idea of spring, that it's springs life, it's the full joyous breaking out of life on earth. That's the thing that we bring with us into orbit, that's such a beautiful image, and it's wonderful to hear Robert Picardo read that. One of the many things that sparked my own interest in space was Star Trek Voyager, I have to say and so it's wonderful to actually get to hear him read that.
Chris Cokinos: Beautiful, a beautiful reading. I was listening to that poem and experiencing it for the first time in a long time if that makes sense because I think as Julie indicated, it's the labor that goes into putting together a collection like this and then you get to step back and sort of reconnect with the work itself. I thought it was gorgeous.
Mat Kaplan: Isn't that the case? Also to hear these read it does bring something more to them than just hearing them in your own head. It occurred to me that we had to get together some time and have a little space poetry jam on stage there at the University of Arizona someday. I hope you'll consider that.
Chris Cokinos: Oh yeah.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Absolutely.
Chris Cokinos: I love that. I think that would be great. Let's get the vaccine, let's go get past COVID and have a spring on earth again be how spring on earth is supposed to be and we'll do it.
Mat Kaplan: Amen to that. Maybe you'll be up on stage with whoever else is up there reading some of your own work. I mean, you did include, each of you, one of your works in this collection they are very appropriate inclusions I will say. Modestly, they're not among the nine that are going to be read today but they are really lovely contributions to this.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Thank you so much for that. It was neat to be able to bring our own background and perspectives to this project as poets in addition to as editors and kind of thinkers on this topic.
Chris Cokinos: Thank you, Matt. We went back and forth a little bit and we thought, well, we have some things to say as well. I think Julie's poem is a kind of ode to exploration and my poem is maybe a darker look back at the somewhat fraught origins of the missiles and rockets that we're we're using now from the legacy of Wernher Von Braun and Operation Paperclip. Poets in this book really do ranch across a number of standpoints and I hope the listeners understand that you may encounter some poems that are, especially in the Apollo era, the poets were really skeptical of the program. As the book unfolds, readers will see, I think an unfolding of more curiosity, a little more nuanced in how poets are responding to the various promises and perils of space exploration.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: I think as we were putting this book together too, something we talked about was the importance of having all of these different perspectives. We weren't looking to have only poems that were kind of coming from a really positive direction. And I think that's one of the important things that this collection offers and that poetry kind of offers to us. I mentioned earlier that I feel like poems are good at letting us look at something from multiple angles all at the same time. And I think that in that sense with this book, we hope that it kind of encourages some critical reflection and not in a way that takes away from our excitement about space flight but that can really make us ask good questions and work towards the best that we can do.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, it is definitely part of that great diversity that the two of you brought to the collection. I got another one from a colleague of mine, more or less a former colleague, as people who listened to this program regularly know. When we come back from this, I want to talk about the other contributor to this book, John Loxton.
Emily Lakdawalla: I'm Emily Lakdawalla, solar systems specialist for The Planetary Society and I'll read William Wenthe's poem, A Photograph from the Hubble Telescope. "These luminous clouds and whorls of amethyst, jade and coral are transmitted down to earth as a babble of data. Monochrome of linty gray that arrives in computers at NASA gets filtered out and colored in with a menu of splendid hues, the better to illuminate the original edge of the universe and imagine the most ancient of days. In the same way, I suppose, cathedrals' stained glass windows pieced ordinary light of the sun into an old story of creation. Perhaps there is no story more ancient than our making of images or more new. I picture a darkened chamber and the glow of monitor screen on the focused brow of a technician like torchlight on the face of one who blows powdered pigment through hollow bones in caves of Lascaux."
Mat Kaplan: Another nice read.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Yes, absolutely. And I listened to the recent episode Bidding Farewell to Emily, she's been a constant, I think for you for a long time and so we're wishing her all the best in the new endeavors.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you. She has gotten lots of, wonderful wishes from our listeners and I'm sure she'll appreciate hearing that from you. And she was very happy to be a part of honoring this book and these poets.
Chris Cokinos: Fantastic.
Mat Kaplan: Because we have two poems here in these nine that are both basically about the Hubble Space Telescope. If you don't mind, I'm going to go on to the next of these it's from someone else who's been heard many times on the show, so we'll go to that now.
Alan Stern: Hi, I'm Planetary scientist Alan Stern and I'm going to read Tracy K Smith's poem, My God, It's Full of Stars. "When my father worked on The Hubble Telescope, he said they operated like surgeons, scrubbed and sheathed in papery green, the room a clean cold a bright white. He'd read Larry Niven at home and drink scotch on the rocks. His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years when we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled to view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons before the oracle eye, hungry for what it would find. His face lit up whenever anyone asked in his arms would rise as if you were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never ending night of space.
Alan Stern: On the ground we tied postcards to balloons for peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di, Rock Hudson died, we learned new words for things. The decade changed, the first few pictures team back blurred and I felt ashamed for all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time, the optics jibed, we saw to the edge of all there is, so brutal and alive, it seemed to comprehend us back."
Mat Kaplan: I'm just fascinated by the fact that here we have two poems, so different and yet both inspired by the same instrument of science.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Absolutely. Many poems in the book, I think come from images that people have seen, or that's the sense that I get. There's a lot of thinking about looking in the images that come back to us from space but certainly with the poems about Hubble, they're so beautiful. The photographs from Hubble are so beautiful and captivating but I appreciate that all of these poets bring some nuance to it more than just kind of being amazed with the beauty. they kind of dig into the potential meaning. In William Wenthe, we hear this looking back, we're thinking about looking across vast distances and space and time, and that leads him to think back across the long history of humanity here on earth and art making.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: With Tracy K Smith, she looks out into space or thinking about those images. They're kind of terrifying but I love that last line in that the distance, the expanse that we see is both terrifying but there's also the sense of it being alive, there's a sense that it comprehends us in a way almost as much as we comprehend it. It was also just wonderful to hear Alan read that. New Horizons is one of my favorite missions, it's one that in the poem that I wrote for this book, there's a little bit of a mention of Pluto but that's just one that inspires me so much.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. New Horizons still trucking on out of our solar system out towards the stars. Chris, did you want to add anything?
Chris Cokinos: I do, there're a couple of things I want to say. There's a photograph, one of the wonderful New Horizons photographs of Pluto in the book, we have an inset photo gallery of some of the iconic images of space exploration. To other things just very quickly, I love the moment where Tracy K Smith father is at home having a drink, reading Larry Nevin. I just love that sort of cozy feeling of, I'm going to come home after working on the Hubble and read some science fiction and drink some scotch. I like that, that resonates. But the other thing I was going to say too is that the aspirational sense that builds in this anthology at least I think there's an argument to be made from the trajectory of the kind of skeptical stuff that you see early on from the late fifties into the sixties, where poets are still a little unsure about the role of technology and maybe are sort of more the side of people like Lewis Mumford and others.
Chris Cokinos: But when the shuttle arrives and when the sort of era of robotic exploration really takes off, it seems to me a couple of things happened to sort of break down that skepticism and turn it into a form of curiosity and wonder. And one is those images from Hubble, images from Pathfinder and the rise of visual culture because of the internet. And so there's this sudden access to sublime imagery. And in the shuttle crews, people start to see themselves, Mae Jemison flies, we begin to see a different kind of astronaut crew and not just Americans, right? People from all over the world. And so I'd like to think that's part of the trajectory of openness and wonder and curiosity. Appropriate hard questions being asked by these poets as the book moves forward and I think that may have something to do with that sort of change in attitude.
Mat Kaplan: I cannot resist the segue that you have opened up with those comments. So I'm going to hold off yet again on talking about the other contributor to the book and play one more of these. It's from our other reader who has been up there.
Leland Melvin: I'm astronaut Leland Melvin reading, Witnessing the Launch of the Shuttle Atlantis by Howard Nemerov. "So much of life in the world is waiting that this day was no exception so we waited. All morning long and into the afternoon, I spent some of the time remembering Dante, who did the voyage in the mind alone with no more nor heavier machinery than the ghost of a girl giving him guidance and wondered if much was lost to gain all this new world of engine and energy where dream translates into deed. But when the thing went up it was indeed impressive as if hell itself open to send it to emissary and search of heaven or the unpeopled world thus Dante of doom Ulysses. Behind the sun.
Leland Melvin: So much of life in the world is memory that the moment of the happening itself, so rich with noise and smoke and rising clear to vanish at the limit of our vision into the light blue light of afternoon appeared no more against the void in aim than the flair of a match in sunlight quickly snuffed. What yet may come of this? We cannot know. Great things are promised as the promised land promised to Moses that he would not see but a distant sight of though the children would. The world is made of pictures of the world and the pictures changed the world into another world we cannot know as we knew, not this one."
Mat Kaplan: Another one that is kind of transporting.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: That is one of my favorite poems in the collection as well. I think it's one that sometimes when I read it I hear a little bit more of the skepticism when Nemerov writes, "What was lost for this new world of engine and energy." But in the ending I really love that the turn to the unknowingness that I think you could read that as skeptical but for me I read it as possibility. We don't know the world completely and we don't know what the future holds but in a sense, that's what opens up new things that we haven't fully thought through yet and that really paves the way for discovery.
Mat Kaplan: For me as well. I only perceive that glass as half full. So, I took the same approach to it that you did. We still have three more of these to hear from before we do though, Chris, that other contributor that I've been teasing people with, another regular, semi-regular at least, on Planetary Radio and another Planetary Society board member. How did you get to the great John Logsdon to write a wonderful, concise history of space exploration for the book?
Chris Cokinos: As I said earlier, Julie and I were working on the project and ran up hard against the need to actually pay publishers and pay the poets to reprint this work because that's their labor and poets get really rich from their poems. So we need to pay. Don't quit your day job if you're a poet, but the permission fees mounted and so we approached the Sloan foundation and said, we've got this wonderful project and would you be able to support it? And they were so responsive and have been just incredible. As part of that we were having conversations with them and they offered the services of John Lodsdon, the Dean of space flight, history and policy. And so he wrote this terrific historical overview, which we hope will be of a special note to folks who might be coming to this book more from the poetry side of things and may not have the sort of depth of knowledge about the history and the historical context of the space age.
Mat Kaplan: I think it's a terrific component of the book. It really is an excellent, as I said, very concise summary and when you add to it, the beautiful color plates, your essays that the two of you wrote to introduce each of the sections of the book and of course the poems themselves, which are the heart of it. It really is quite a complete package. I'll just ask you about one other thing, there are a couple of works in here, at least a couple, which are basically more visual than verbal. I'm thinking of one called, Moonshot Sonnet, which you cannot read. I defy you to read but maybe Julie you could describe it?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Sure. So Moonshot Sonnet is by Mary Ellen Solt who is known for doing a number of poems like this, it's called concrete poetry where it's often words arranged to look like something but in the case of Moonshot Sonnet, what it is, is a series of lines basically kind of marks from a photograph showing what the main focus is. And the way this poem was written, it was the photos that came back, the first photographs that came back to the moon and these marks that were on them that were, like I said, showing where the camera was focusing. She took those marks off of the image, traced them and arranged them to look like a sonnet.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: So there are 14 lines, which is what a sonnet has. And each of the lines has five series of lines which sonnets have, five sets of iambic feet, if anybody's into poetry out there. She takes these visual images and turns them into the form of a sonnet. And her note about it is that she says, "We have not been able to address the moon and a sonnet successfully since the Renaissance admitting new scientific content made it possible to do so again." So I think by kind of defying our ability to read this, she says, here's the scientific content I'm going to turn it into a poem for you.
Mat Kaplan: I think most of us have seen these brackets around images returned from space, especially early on in the space program and in the exploration of our solar system. Somebody who helped lead a project that has returned some of the most stunning and gorgeous images from space from our solar system is who I want to hear from next. And it just happens that she is, I've said many times, is as far as I can tell still the guest who has been heard most often on Planetary Radio.
Linda Spilker: My name is Linda Spilker. I'm a Planetary scientist and Cassini project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Today I'm reading a poem entitled after taking the family portrait of the solar system. Voyager 1 understands herself as Orpheus in Plain Daylight by Jessica Ray Bergamino. "Valentine's day 1990, past Pluto. I turned to watch the pale thrill of Earth spinning on without me. We both knew I could never return. She was already warring cold beginning even then to melt. But what's true about leaving is true about looking back both require doubt for poignancy. And if I'm honest, we all know I turned because she called I'd always been a mirror for her will so this is how I measure distance, not in the leaving but in being left in the absence of touch. The billions, in small orbit strong upon small orbits spinning to some celestine harmony we were never meant to count.
Linda Spilker: I sent all I could across the distance, thrills of zeros and ones dimming to data on an astronomer's desk. How she saw herself then, fragrant, green, lit by the smear of sun, a bright crescent hung beside Venus' flame both of them pocked by longing. She thought she was the center of the universe once and how close she was, straddled by fortune while Neptune and Uranus clung to the dark edges of sight. So yes, I turned because who doesn't deserve to see ourselves in the ghost of what loves us. And she sang in code to celebrate, programming my eyes to close and never open making sure my last long gaze was her blue face becoming its own reflection. How silly I was to call this a love letter somewhere Mercury is retrograde."
Mat Kaplan: This one had special meaning for Linda. She was there Valentine's day, 1990, she was a part of the mission, the Voyager mission at that point as it looked back across the solar system at that pale blue dot of Earth, you weren't aware of that I guess?
Julie Swardstad Johnson: No, we actually weren't. The connection I saw was her being at Planetary Science and it being a poem very much digging into Voyager. There's a lot of research behind that poem it's part of a longer book that really connects with Voyager and thinks about it deeply. So it's wonderful to know that she was there.
Mat Kaplan: Chris, I love that this was told in the first person by one of our robot emissaries.
Chris Cokinos: Yes indeed, I know. That's one of the things that we can do in poetry is assume those perspectives that perhaps would be impossible otherwise. But listening to her read the poem made me think we should be embedding a poets and artists again, the NASA artists program has gone on for so long with visual artists at launches and facilities and that's produced an incredible array of paintings and drawings and photographs. And we should be embedding poets when things are being launched and landings are occurring at JPL and have sort of, the creative momentary history recorded by those artists as well.
Mat Kaplan: No question about it and some of that has been done and I also think back to Ray Bradbury, who was so excited during the Apollo program and the early explorations of Mars and he is also represented in your book. Let's go to another one. It's the only one we have that is actually read by its creator. Someone else who has been on this show many times in the past and hopefully we'll be again before too long.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Hi everyone, I'm Kim Stanley Robinson and this is my poem in the collection, Canyon Color first appeared in my short story collection, the Martians. "In Lazio Canyon boating, sheet ice overshadowed stream crackling under our bow. Stream grows wide curves into sunlight, a deep bend in the ancient channel. Plumes of frost at every breath, endless rise at the red Canyon, canyon in canyons, gnaw into them. Black lines, web rust sandstone, wind carved boulder over us. We're on a wet red beach, green moss, green [inaudible 00:52:38], green. Not nature, not culture, just Mars, western sky deep violet, two evening stars, one white, one blue, Venus and the Earth."
Mat Kaplan: Wow. A vision of an inhabited Mars in the probably far distant future. Forget you read, Blue Green Mars. That's a Mars of many colors.
Chris Cokinos: It is. And Stan is such a prolific and masterful novelist. I think that we need to acknowledge he's a really good poet and he embeds poetry in a lot of his work and I hope someday he'll collect all those and publish a volume of poetry.
Mat Kaplan: We are just about out of time, let's get to the last of our poems today. It is another very special person who was very happy to participate, someone who has written a book about finding spirituality and great art across our cosmos. The cosmos. Let's hear that now.
Sasha Sagan: Hi, I'm Sasha Sagan author of, For Small Creatures Such as We and this is The Crew of Apollo 8 by Elaine V. Emans. "Shall we call them poets for having observed on their earliest times around the moon that it seemed to be layered with a grayish white beach sand with footprints in it? Or geologists for having reported to us the six or seven terraces leading down into crater angriness? Or shall we call them some new breed of bird for having swiftly flown weightless and unfearing and sharp eyed into the dark unknown? Yet words to tell of their skill and diancy are as weak as water and their return and being earthlings with us again are what most matter."
Mat Kaplan: The daughter of Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan, co-founder of The Planetary Society of course. Ann Druyan, friend of the show, friend of The Society. Sasha Sagan who was featured on our show about a year ago when her own book came out. I just find that a very fitting close. I will tell you another secret about this, Sasha closed herself up in a closet at her house, record that, so that she'd have reasonably good acoustics and I'm very grateful.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: That's a great image.
Chris Cokinos: She was doing her domestic space capsule, I guess.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I think so. Talking about this poem that almost spans the cosmos from this tiny enclosed space, probably sitting under a bunch of code hangers.
Julie Swardstad Johnson: And it feels so fitting to end there too because Apollo 8 is so famous for that Earthrise image. And this book has really focused outward thinking about imagining out across the universe, across our solar system but a key component of this book as well is what being in space gives us the perspective about Earth. The ability to see our fragility, our smallness, also the value, the importance, the sweetness of life on Earth. And so to hear that poem and to also think about her in that little domestic space reading that to us really fills out.
Mat Kaplan: Chris, what is the reaction been to the book so far? I know that from what I have received, that it has been pretty near ecstatic and very welcome.
Chris Cokinos: I'm thrilled to hear that and I know Julie is thrilled to hear that. We've had a number of different readings, all virtual of course because of COVID but they've been extremely well attended. We did, as of the recording we're doing right now, last night, an event at the Flandrau Planetarium at the University of Arizona. Again, just Julie, myself across the dome and one person and then a virtual audience and we had some amazing questions. So yeah, it's been really uplifting, we're looking forward to seeing some reviews and print everyone from Dava Savel to Howard McCurdy have said great things about the book. So we're very excited.
Mat Kaplan: Let me read Dava Savel's terrific blurb on the back of this book, "Only two of the contributors to this soaring adroitly curated anthology have actually traveled in space but nothing stops the rest of them from vaulting Skyward on a pillar of words with a potent gravity assist from their emotions. Thank you both. I wish I'd been under that dome for your reading. I sure hope to be in person someday before too long when it's safe for all of us to do so and be a part of this again but I am absolutely thrilled and utterly grateful to both of you for creating this collection and for allowing us to share it with the Planetary Radio audience. Thank you so much, Julie and Chris."
Julie Swardstad Johnson: Thank you so much for having us. It's just a wonderful all the things that you're doing with The Society. So thank you for having us here.
Chris Cokinos: I echo all of that, Matt, what a wonderful conversation with you and a huge thanks to the readers of the poems today. They're heroes of ours. And it's just been a complete pleasure. So here's to more.
Mat Kaplan: Julie Swardstad Johnson and Christopher Cokinos of the University of Arizona are the editors of Beyond Earth's Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight. One more poem is still ahead. I don't think Bruce is going to win the Nobel with it but you never know.
Kate Howells: Hi, this is Kate from The Planetary Society, how does space spark your creativity? We want to hear from you whether you make cosmic art, take photos through a telescope, write haikus about the planets or invent space games for your family, really any creative activity that's space-related. We invite you to share it with us. You can add your work to our collection by emailing it to us @[email protected] that's, [email protected] Thanks.
Mat Kaplan: Time for What's Up on Planetary Radio. Bruce Betts is the chief scientist of the Planetary Society also the program manager for LightSail but as I've said many times also involved with oversight of many other projects we have underway, including one that has just met with wonderful success, wonderful validation. Hey Bruce, welcome. Tell us what's going on.
Bruce Betts: PlanetVac. Planetary vacuum, it uses a pneumatic gas driven system to force surface samples of planets or moons or comets or asteroids into a sample container for return to Earth or for analysis on the body. We, our members allowed us to provide key funding twice in its development. Now it's been selected to fly on not only one but two missions. It will be flying to the moon launching in 2023 on a NASA commercial lander as part of a tech demonstration. And then it will be flying as a NASA contribution to the Japanese MMX mission that will launch in 2024. And it will be sampling Mars' moon, Phobos for material to repeat return to Earth. So we're very excited. Congratulations to Honeybee Robotics, who is the company behind PlanetVac and we're looking forward to cool stuff in the years to come.
Mat Kaplan: And we will be talking more about this. We're going to bring in another old friend of the show, Chris Ackney, along with Bruce pretty soon, couple of weeks maybe to talk more about the success of PlanetVac which I will note, definitely does not suck.
Bruce Betts: It blows.
Mat Kaplan: Quite literally. What's Up?
Bruce Betts: Matt, I hear you're doing poetry on this show.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, well, I didn't really fortunately but a lot of other great people did.
Bruce Betts: Well, unfortunately or fortunately I've written a limerick-
Mat Kaplan: Do we need to give a Parental Discretion Advised announcement?
Bruce Betts: No, not that kind of limerick. "The following may contain bad poetry. Brain discretion is advised. Bruce was sounding rather hazy speaking as if he were lazy. He gave us space fact without any tact and drove Matt Kaplan crazy."
Mat Kaplan: That's great. It's a very nice limerick. I was pleased it was good. Wait a minute. I should have done this.
Bruce Betts: All right. Enough of the crazy, let's move on to What's in the Night Sky. We've got Mars just past opposition, opposite side of the earth from the sun. It is still exceedingly bright over in the East in the early evening and up all night, looking reddish, looking brighter than any star or even Jupiter, at least for a little bit longer. And it will start its long slow fade as Earth and Mars get farther apart from each other. Also, looking very bright Jupiter in the evening sky over in the West, Southwest and to its left is still a yellowish Saturn. There'll be getting closer together towards a really close visit between the two but that's not till December.
Bruce Betts: In the meantime, in the pre dawn you can check out Venus looking also super bright over in the East. I tend not to mention average mediocre meteor showers but if you are in a dark site you can check out the orionids on October 21st, 22nd is when it's peaking, it's maybe 20 meteors per hour, it's peak and claim to fame dust grains leftover from Comet Halley. We move on to this weekend space history. It was 1997 that Cassini launched off to Saturn. Oh, how we learn so much from that and from Huygens the probe that went with it to Titan.
Mat Kaplan: And how nice that we were able to include Linda Spilker the project scientist for the close of that mission or actually many years of that mission through the close of it. But the science is still rolling in as we saw just recently with those newly processed images from Enceladus of the tiger stripes.
Bruce Betts: Speaking of rolling random, random, random, random space fact, space fact. Mars and Earth approach each other in their orbits every 26 months we've just past that point. But because the orbits are elliptical, particularly Mars this cost approach distance is very significantly, I've also mentioned this. Let me give you an idea of how different they are. The farthest close approaches of Earth and Mars are almost twice as far as the closest close approaches and it's fun to say. Thus, the angular diameter at closest is about twice the angular diameter at farthest, therefore, wait for it, the angular area's almost four times bigger, keep wait for it, which means Mars can be four times brighter when we have close-close approaches than far close approaches, man, that terminology is complicated. Sorry about that.
Mat Kaplan: You did better than come close.
Bruce Betts: Thank you, Matt. Let's move on to the trivia contest. And I asked you what three Apollo spacecraft call signs were later used as the names of space shuttle orbiters. How'd you do it?
Mat Kaplan: Here's I believe the answer from our poet laureate, Dave Fairchild, if you have a call sign that is working well for you, you might as well recycle it from NASA's point of view, Columbia and Challenger, Endeva got the nod, Apollo is the patron saint for use it over mods.
Bruce Betts: That is indeed correct.
Mat Kaplan: Excellent. Our winner, a first time winner, Ian Slake in Arizona who had all three of those. He also added, "Thanks for another great episode." He's reading Scott Kelly's Endurance so it's a good time for a question about the shuttle program. I have not yet read that book, I really need to read it. It has gotten such wonderful reviews. Ian, you are going to receive that poster of the only space cat who actually survived the journey from Matthew Serge Guy, creator of the successful Felicette, pardon me space cat kickstarter campaign designed by distinguished artist and illustrator, Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy. We'll be asking Matthew Serge Guy to get that out to you. Ian, congratulations again. What was the Apollo derivation? I mean, what were these applied to during the Apollo program? Do you know?
Bruce Betts: Yeah. Apollo 11 command module was Columbia, Apollo 15 command module is Endeva, and Apollo 17, the lunar module was Challenger.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you. I was looking for that. We can move right onto the new contest.
Bruce Betts: NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission is about to sample an asteroid, asteroid Bennu, very exciting. Here's your question, who was the original principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission? Go to planetary.org/radio contest.
Mat Kaplan: Great question. And one that has been answered on the show by the current actually long serving principal investigator for that mission who will go unnamed but will, I hope soon also be back on Planetary Radio. You have until the 21st, October 21st at 8:00 am Pacific time to get us this answer. And what else could we give you with a question like this? A Planetary Society kick asteroid, rubber asteroid will be coming your way hopefully at a considerably less than many kilometers per second.
Bruce Betts: Hopefully, even rubber strides hurt a lot at those speeds.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, we're done.
Bruce Betts: All right, everybody go out there look up the night sky and think about surge protectors. Thank you goodnight.
Mat Kaplan: I can tell you from firsthand knowledge, they're really smart to have I wish I had had one. Anyway, he's Bruce Betts, the chief scientist from The Planetary Society. He knows how to handle a good surge, so he joins us every week here for What's Up. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by its members who combined rhyme and reason. Join them at planetary.org/membership, you could do verse. Mark Hilverda is our associate producer. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. Ad astra.