Planetary Radio • Jan 04, 2023
Planetary Radio stories with Mat Kaplan
On This Episode
Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society
Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society
New host Sarah Al-Ahmed bids a fond farewell to Mat Kaplan, Planetary Radio’s former host, with a heartwarming compilation of messages from fans, followed by a special interview with Mat about his two decades as creator and producer of the show. Be sure to catch Sarah and Bruce Betts in this week’s What’s Up as they share a special gaming-themed trivia question.
- Meet the new Planetary Radio host! (and enjoy a beer with a cosmologist)
- The night sky
- The Downlink
- Subscribe to the monthly Planetary Radio newsletter
This Week’s Question:
What planetary system was the setting for the majority of the original Doom video game?
This Week’s Prize:
An autographed photo of Planetary Radio’s former host, Mat Kaplan.
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, January 11 at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.
Last week's question:
What hardware did The Planetary Society fly to Mars as part of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover missions? No need for great detail.
The winner will be revealed next week.
Question from the December 21, 2022 space trivia contest:
What observed astronomical event did Tycho Brahe write about in his book, “De Nova Stella?”
Tycho Brahe wrote the book “De Nova Stella” after observing a supernova in the constellation of Cassiopeia in 1572.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's a new year and a new host, this week on Planetary Radio. I'm Sarah Al-Ahmed of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. After 20 amazing years as host of Planetary Radio, my friend and hero Mat Kaplan has earned his well-deserved retirement, from the show at least. As he passes the microphone to me, he begins a whole new journey as senior communications advisor here at The Planetary Society. You'll hear my conversation with Mat about his two decades of adventures as host of Planetary Radio in a moment. But first a treat that I've been looking forward to for months. From the instant that Mat and I announced his upcoming departure from Planetary Radio, we've been receiving a torrent of congratulatory messages. We've compiled some heartfelt snippets of the audio that we've received, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did. I'll close out my first show as host of Planetary Radio with Dr. Bruce Betts, the only person other than Mat Kaplan to make an appearance on every episode of this show. He'll join me for What's Up and a special gaming themed question for our weekly trivia contest. There's a lot going on here at The Planetary Society as our beloved weekly podcast changes hands. But that doesn't mean that the space exploration party has stopped. Meanwhile on Mars, NASA's Perseverance rover has begun laying down its first sample deposits. As of the time of this recording, the rover has put two of these titanium tubes containing precious samples of Martian material on the ground. These and other samples gathered by the rover are under consideration for a trip back to Earth as part of the upcoming Mars sample return mission. It's a joint venture between the European Space Agency and NASA. The space agencies are hoping to return samples from Mars's surface to Earth by the early 2030s, and it's going to be amazing. We share the image that the Perseverance rover took of its first Martian sample deposit in the December 30th edition of our free weekly newsletter The Downlink. You can subscribe to it for free at planetary.org/downlink. A few months ago, on October 26th, 2022, shortly after I learned that I was going to be the new host of Planetary Radio, Mat Kaplan invited me on the show to introduce me and share a little bit about my background. I'll link to that previous episode on this week's Planetary Radio page at planetary.org/radio. During that show, we shared a phone number for our temporary Planetary Radio hotline and asked fans to call in and send their well wishes to Mat and me. The response was overwhelming. I cannot tell you how much we've appreciated the outpouring of supportive messages from space fans around the world. I wish I could share all of them with you, but here's a short compilation of some of our favorite audio messages.
Speaker 2: Oh my gosh, this is so cool. I've been emailing Planetary Radio for years and it's really cool to actually say hi. Mat, I just want to say thank you for everything. About 15 years ago, I was looking for a podcast to listen to with my new telescope, and I came across Planetary Radio. I became a planetary member soon after. Congratulations, both of you. Thank you so much for everything you do. You are loved.
Morgan Goodwin: Hello, Morgan Goodwin here, Planetary Society member, environmentalist, climate activist. I work for the Sierra Club here in Los Angeles. But I just wanted to say that Planetary Radio has been such a joy and such a grounding, no pun intended, force for me over the last several years as we work on these really big problems at home. You just keep my sights up looking at the sky, looking at what's possible. This show has felt like a real home base for me.
Alon Dagan: This is Alon Dagan in Massachusetts. I'm just calling as I'm driving home from another shift in the emergency department. Mat, you have been my listening decompression from work for years now, and I was worried when I heard that you were leaving that you would no longer be joining me on my sometimes long ride home. Hearing Sarah's voice has reassured me that I will continue to be able to enjoy all of the beautiful content you put out and put things in perspective in a beautiful and humbling way. I thank you for that and look forward to many more years to come. Thank you.
Speaker 5: So, Mat, I'm really sorry to see you leave. But after 20 years, you've done an amazing job. Sarah, welcome aboard, from a space enthusiast here in Illinois. It is great to listen to you guys every month and tune in and get an education. I'm looking forward to the next 20 years.
Speaker 6: Oh, there are so many things that I could say, but I'll try to keep it short. I've been listening to Planetary Radio for a long time, and I'm just always impressed at how well you can put together a show with accurate and timely and fascinating info while keeping it easy and fun and conveying episode after episode that you just have an authentic passion for this topic. Yeah, you've developed a reputation that allows you to get aid to your people on every episode. You somehow speak to a wide audience, yet you still remind us with your periodic comments that you're a hardcore space nerd like the rest of us. So I've always been able to count on Planetary Radio as a place to fan the flames of my favorite copy and a way to bring my friends and family in as well.
Devon O'Rourke: Hey, this is Devon O'Rourke in Lakewood, Colorado. Mat, you're an inspiration and a legend. What you've created over two decades of Planetary Radio is a treasure and a work of art. I'm excited to see what's next for the show and for you. Thanks for being the best space communicator out there. Ad astra.
Laura Steele Monahan: This is Laura Steele Monahan calling from Folsom, California. I want to say hey and hello to Sarah. It was really fun hearing your voice the last month or so. I'm excited to see where the show's going to go with your leadership. But really this message is a thank you to Mat Kaplan. Mat, as a middle school math teacher, I really appreciate the coverage of so many awesome women and people of color in STEM on the show. I've learned so much. I can't wait to see what Sarah does as well. Best wishes. Ad astra.
David Giullet: My name is David Giullet. I had always been interested in space, even as a little kid, but I always felt like it was a little too out there, pardon the pun. Really inspired by the show, realized that I could make space for space my life. That's all thanks to you, and so I wish you the best of luck forward.
Neil Ashman: Hi, this is Neil Ashman in the Quad Cities, Iowa. Mat, I just appreciate you so much. Just your warmth, your intellect, your preparation, everything about the PB&J of space science comes through in your every word. You're going to be missed. Sarah, I wish you the best of luck. You are filling big shoes and you seem like the person to do it, and that just means the world to all of us. Thank you both and ad astra.
Speaker 11: Mat, thanks a lot for all your service. I've really enjoyed your podcast for years now. Thanks a lot, you guys.
Kevin Rush: Hi, Mat. This is Kevin Rush. I've been a member since 1981. I've been listening to your show every week since the beginning. I want to wish you all the best and I'm going to miss you very much. But from what I hear, Sarah is a great replacement, and I can't wait to see what's happening. So please, please take my deepest thank you and sincerity for all you have done. And welcome, Sarah, to the show. Take care and hope to hear myself on the show. Bye bye.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm not crying. You're crying. But really, though, thank you so much for all of your wonderful messages. I cannot tell you what it means to me. It just goes to show what an impact Mat has made on the lives of so many space fans around the world. That's why I insisted that Mat had to be my first guest on my first show of Planetary Radio. Mat Kaplan created Planetary Radio and hosted this show for over two decades. He produced more than a thousand episodes during that time and became a true legend in the space community. His kindness, insightful questions, and pure enthusiasm for space was obvious to me long before I met him in person. But my respect for Mat only grew when I started working at The Planetary Society as the digital community manager two years ago. Mat is now the senior communications advisor at The Planetary Society, and here are some of his Planetary Radio stories. How the tables have turned. Thanks for joining me for my first Planetary Radio show ever, Mat.
Mat Kaplan: Welcome ... Welcome. Listen to me. I'm still hosting. Thank you, Sarah. I am very proud to be heard yet again on Planetary Radio on your very first show. That's quite a distinction.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, it definitely makes me feel happy and comfortable, because I've been wanting to talk to you about your time on Planetary Radio. I'm sure that this is a kind of bittersweet moment for you. You've been hosting this show for two decades, and it's probably awesome to take a break from it. But also how are you feeling?
Mat Kaplan: You're right, it's bittersweet. It's very much mixed emotions. Overall, I still think that it was a very good idea when I went to our chief operating officer, Jennifer Vaughn, two years ago and said, "I think 20 years is going to be about right." As you have heard me say, I am very much looking forward to not having this deadline hanging over my head every week. I gladly pass on that responsibility to you. But, yeah, the downside is I think I'm still going to have the opportunity to talk to the people who I always think of and call my heroes, the people who are taking us out there to the final frontier. I think that's going to happen, and it certainly sounds like it is, but it's probably not going to happen on quite as regular basis, a weekly basis, as it has. That's been the best part of this job. It's talking with these heroes and sharing those conversations, as you will be from now on.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm really excited to do it, but I'm hoping you get the opportunity to continue as well, because-
Mat Kaplan: Thank you.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... you deserve those adventures, Mat.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I agree. I'm not going to argue.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: But now that you are taking a step back a little bit, you'll have a little bit more free time. Is there anything you're really looking forward to doing now that you're retiring from Planetary Radio?
Mat Kaplan: Well, they're going to keep me pretty busy at the society. So I'm glad I'm looking forward to the things that Jennifer and others have talked to me about.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Right. But you've got to go walk on the beach or something.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, every time I ... Last time I took the train up to our headquarters in Pasadena, because I'm down in the San Diego area, I'm looking down at the beach because it runs right along there, the surf liner, and I'm thinking, "Boy, that looks really nice. Why don't I do that?" I haven't even been to ... There's a little maritime museum that's just down the hill from our house, on the bay here in San Diego. I haven't even been there. So you're right. There's a lot that I should be doing as I start to at least somewhat cut back my hours. I mean I think I'm going to be full time for a while. So ask me in three months and you can yell at me if I'm not doing some of that, taking those strolls on the beach, because hopefully I will be by then. But I'm really looking forward to the new stuff that I'll be doing at the society, like working with the member community that our members will be hearing about soon and hopefully-
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I love when you say that, because I spent so long working on that. It's been my pet project for two years. Just hearing anyone be excited about it is a moment for me. I have to let go of it a little bit, but I'm happy to know that people like you are going to be in there to keep it alive and happy.
Mat Kaplan: I hope so. We have all watched you put in this work into this new community, this new online community, that we have been in need of for many, many years. When the society got started, we had a member forum area on our website, but it was very primitive and nobody used it. This is going to be very different. I mean it's not just the tools, the apps are so much more sophisticated. It's that we're doing it right this time in terms of making the opportunities available for people to participate, to interact with each other. I don't have to tell you. You know. You're the one who set it all up. But it's really being done right this time and we have, in large part, mostly you to thank for that, I believe.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, I appreciate that. I've worked really hard on it, but it's taken a team. So, oh, I cannot wait for everyone to play around in there. It's going to be fantastic. But, Mat, you've been hosting this show for two decades, but that is not where your love of space started. My understanding is that you've been in love with space since you were a tiny child. So what were you like as a kid and how did that lead you on this path toward Planetary Radio?
Mat Kaplan: I was pretty nerdy, as you might expect.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Same.
Mat Kaplan: I was fascinated by science stuff in elementary school. When I was quite young, this was at the time of the beginning of the human space program here in the United States. The Soviets had been at it for a little while longer than us. But it was so thrilling. I mean so many of us in this country, especially young people, were so thrilled by every launch. I was totally into it. I mean I would run to the television, the black and white TV, to see a launch and remember some of these. I wasn't very much older. I started building models. I had a beautiful model, very detailed, that I built of the whole launch complex for the Atlas V, the kind of rocket that John Glenn and the other Mercury astronauts, except for the first couple who rode into space, rode into orbit. It was just so much fun. I told my mother that I would read every science book, every space book that is, in our local public library. One, that wasn't as impressive as it may sound because it was a little hole in the wall storefront library. It was like one bookshelf. Two, I never made it, but it was the beginning of my love affair with learning about space exploration. Back then, when we were still being told that we would probably never be able to detect a planet around another star because it was just too much of a technical challenge. It was just crazy to think that. Maybe we would reach Mars someday. But it was just a very exciting time, building to Apollo. For Apollo 11, I was by that time a teenager. I had my father's Super 8 movie camera and I was pointing that at our television and filming. Years later, I was able to tell Buzz Aldrin that I had had that experience and I was filming him standing next to the flag on the moon. He went into his bedroom, we were at his apartment, and came back out and he had signed a photo. He said, "Hey, Mat. Here's the movie you were taking with your dad's camera."
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, what a moment.
Mat Kaplan: So I've always been into this. Science fiction came along as well and played its role, and it has been a wonderful, wonderful experience with all this stuff that we love.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's beautiful. I was just the other day looking through all of my kids' books from when I was a child and realizing what portion of them were about space. I mean I knew I loved it, but I cannot bear to throw them away. They're all just sitting on a box under my bed. It's awful.
Mat Kaplan: I got to tell you, I still have some of those books. As people hear this, recently I had Rob Manning, chief engineer of JPL, on, and Andy Weir wrote a couple of number one bestsellers and-
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Just a couple.
Mat Kaplan: ... I was asking them the same stuff, "How did you get started? What turned you into a space nerd?" Rob said that when he was a kid, he had a lot of great books, but among them was this wonderful set that his parents got called The Life Science Library. His favorite book in that library was Man and Space and how to be people in space. But I said, "Rob, look over my right shoulder here down below. You may be able to see it too." "There it is. That's the set that I had." Sure enough, Man and Space was also my favorite volume as well. It painted this glorious picture of the future that seemed so achievable. It was the future of the 2001: A Space Odyssey painted for us. We really thought we were going to have that big moon base in Clavius by 2001. I mean it was just such an age of optimism.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: If only, but then we'd be tripping over monoliths and things would get weird.
Mat Kaplan: Right.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: But I'm sure we'll get there at some point. I'm hoping.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I hope the batteries last in the monolith.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh gosh. If it was battery-powered, that would be weird.
Mat Kaplan: A lot of D cells.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Right. But ultimately you loved space. You were working in radio, working at a university, and then eventually you ended up at The Planetary Society about 22 years ago. Do you remember what your first days were like?
Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah, sure. It's easy. Well, my first days, I mean you've heard this story. I was already a member and I saw that the society needed volunteers to work at Planet Fest in 1999. That was when we were hoping to watch Mars Polar Lander come down onto the surface, and it did. Unfortunately, it came down way too fast and is somewhere down there in little pieces. I don't think anybody's ever found the site. But we have this gigantic celebration, as we often do, around events like this at the Pasadena Convention Center, thousands and thousands of people. I had an audiovisual background. I had worked in that business for many years and I was running a television studio at California State University, Long Beach. So they put me in charge of audiovisual as a volunteer and had a blast doing it. Very soon after that, Lou Friedman and the then webmaster asked me if I would come to work for the society. I said, "Well, I can't do it full time because I'm going to stay at the university, got a family to support, and you're far away in Pasadena." I said, "But part time." So I was supposed to write content. I remember showing up the first day at the beautiful old green and green craftsman home that we had on Catalina, just one block north of Colorado Boulevard, where everybody watches the Rose Parade go by. The webmaster had quit the day before. And so, I went from being a content person or writer to being the webmaster. Did I know any HTML? No, not in the least. And so, I didn't know what I was doing, and it showed. At that point, our website wasn't even up. It had been hacked. And so, the site had been taken down and had been down for a couple of months. Now think about it, this is the year 2000, a couple of years before the Planetary Radio started. That's a long time ago. But organizations like ours still needed to have a website by that point.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Absolutely.
Mat Kaplan: And so, we started working to try and restore it. Frankly, I don't think I had that much to do with bringing us back online, because there were other people who came in who knew what they were doing. But back in those days, it was like going to a family home. I mean it had been a family home. There were almost always kids around. There were dogs around. It was a very small group. Some people would say that if it was a family, it was a somewhat dysfunctional family, but which ones aren't? It was just a blast. Everybody had multiple jobs because there were so few of us, a very different situation now, and it was a lot of fun. But it was also a struggle. There were some difficult times for the society. We saw our membership falling. This was not too long after we lost co-founder Carl Sagan. Carl had done such a wonderful job for us going on The Tonight Show and talking about how people ought to join up. So we faced some challenges. It was an interesting time, but we sure did have fun and a got lot of great projects done.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. Did that time of challenge in any way contribute to the fact that you wanted to start Planetary Radio? I mean it was only two years after you joined on that you pushed hard for this. You had to advocate to make this a thing. Were you hoping that you could gain more members by increasing that reach?
Mat Kaplan: Well, that was part of what I said, but the truth is, yeah, it's just something I wanted to do. I mean I'm an old radio guy. I'm a space and radio guy. So I was dropping hints. I don't want to make it sound like people were that resistant. Lou Friedman, who was our executive director, he is the surviving co-founder of the society. We had him on the show just a few weeks ago, still doing great work, and our associate administrator, Charlene Anderson, who the founders, Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Lou Friedman, had stolen from the Cousteau Society, just like we stole you from the Griffith Observatory, Charlene was my direct supervisor. They were open to this idea, it just we had to get the timing right. Eventually they let me give it a try and we just did it initially on my old college radio station, KUCI 88.9, Irvine, California. It took off pretty quickly from there. Before we knew it, we were on about I think it was 28 stations. But the internet wasn't fast enough to distribute it online.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I remember those days.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, we were duplicating CDs and mailing them out. Then very quickly, as soon as we were capable and stations were capable, we started offering the opportunity to download the show. It was a slow download, but it sure was better than burning all those CDs and putting them in the mail. We decided, hey, maybe there's some potential here. We've had this interest. Maybe if we brought in a consultant, maybe we could get to 50, 60, 70 stations. Well, we did bring in a consultant. Before we knew it, we had over 120 radio stations, which is quite successful in the public radio world. Now it helped that we have never charged radio stations to put Planetary Radio on their schedules. If we had, a lot of the smaller stations would've said, "Thank you, but no thanks." I am very proud that we're still aired by over a hundred radio stations across North America and a few outside of North America. That was all in the early days. But, Sarah, another one you've heard is that if you listen to the first Planetary Radio episode, and then you didn't listen to any until you heard last week's show, you'd say, "Oh yeah, that's Planetary Radio. It hasn't changed much, and 20 years is a long time to keep the same format. It's one of the other reasons that I thought it's probably time for a change.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But also I'm sure there'll be some updates over time. Something you did change was that you had to move away from radio and then put it up on the internet in a form of a podcast, extend the reach. But that's just such a wild journey. Something that I think is really fun about your job that I'm really looking forward to is that you get to talk to all of these different heroes. I know that they say you shouldn't meet your heroes, but in the space community, I've always found that to be very untrue. I've never spoken to someone who was once a space hero to me, only to find that they weren't as cool as I thought they were. So has there ever been a moment that you spoke with a guest, only to find out that they were actually way more awesome than you anticipated?
Mat Kaplan: Oh, it happens all the time. Yeah. I mean you want specific names, I may not be able to give you any. But there are people who I maybe had not spoken to, I had corresponded with, and maybe I had just seen a press release from their university or their NASA center or something and thought, "Ooh, that's a great topic. I hope this person speaks good English," because sometimes they were coming ... Maybe it's somebody in Europe, frequently in fact. I love to repeat to people that 30% of the Planetary Radio audience, the folks listening to us right now, are outside the United States. So it happens a lot. I mean, okay, here's one good example. Jane Greaves of the UK who, of course, has been doing this wonderful work trying to figure out is there phosphine in the upper Venusian atmosphere. If there is, where's it coming from? Jane has just been a delight. Well, I didn't know that she was going to just be wonderful to talk to. I'd heard her a little bit, a couple of sound bites, but that was it. There were a couple of guys at UC, Santa Cruz who did this amazing work that I only knew from a press release. If you don't mind, I'll describe it. It'll only take a second.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Absolutely.
Mat Kaplan: They had been looking at ways to figure out how to model the filaments of dark matter that surround galaxies and connect galaxies and other objects in interstellar space. What they discovered is that the slime trails left by giant banana slugs could actually be the basis for a good model. They would run these models and then they would plot them against actual models as we know them of dark matter and say, "Wow, this is great. We can use this to help build our mathematical model." I thought, well, this is just too good to be true because, of course, then I got to talk to them about the fact that the mascot of UC, Santa Cruz where these guys are professors is the giant banana slug.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yes. I was going to say I took my first astronomy course over the summer as a high schooler at UC, Santa Cruz.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, great.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I was going to say only someone from UC, Santa Cruz would think, "Let's use slugs."
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, they do have an interesting outlook on life there up in the redwoods. They were just delightful. They were just terrific people to talk to. That has generally been the experience. There have been so few people, so few people who are not ready and willing to talk about the stuff they do, because in general they feel so passionate about it. I will admit, as you'll be discovering as well, or you already know, we do a lot of work to make people sound as good as we can, to make them sound their best. We do it for ourselves, too. And so there's a lot of stuff people who may not be quite as articulate as some of our best guests where we make them sound a little bit better than they might have if you just heard the raw interview. But by and large, that passion really comes through. So many of these people, I call it the Linda Spilker scale, if you rate a 10, that's Linda Spilker, because Linda Spilker has this ability, and there are several other people, to just sit down and talk and do it in one take. You don't hear ums and ahs and you don't hear many you knows, all that stuff the rest of us normal humans do. It makes it so easy, the job, and she just loves what she does, and it comes across.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's funny because I had a very similar experience with Linda Spilker when I was at Griffith Observatory. It was the party for the end of the Cassini mission. The whole Cassini team was there. They were celebrating. We were doing interviews with them and I was just doing some of the video editing behind the scenes, and same thing, easiest person to edit ever. It was wonderful.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, yeah, and just the nicest person, too. She's just great. It is so fun to think of her now after all these years. When she was quite young, just starting at JPL, going onto the Voyager project, way back then, before she moved to Cassini and became first deputy, then project scientist. Now here she is back on Voyager, project scientist, following in the footsteps of one of her mentors, the great Ed Stone. She is only the second project scientist in the history of that project. It's just a wonderful thing to consider.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's wild how long that project has been around and that the people that have worked on it, they love it so much that they're willing to dedicate decades to it, which absolutely makes sense. I would work on that mission forever.
Mat Kaplan: Oh man, who wouldn't? They're expecting it to go into the 2030s, when we're hopefully still going to be able to hear from Voyager 1 and 2.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: We hope so.
Mat Kaplan: So hopefully there's a good, long future history ahead of us.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Right. I'll have to bring her on and talk to her about Voyager in another 10 years.
Mat Kaplan: You've got to. You've got to.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I know, in the past, people have asked you if there are any guests that you wish you could have brought onto the show and communicated with, and almost always you say Carl Sagan-
Mat Kaplan: Sure.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... which absolutely makes sense. You never got a chance to talk with him, even though we're both working at the organization that he co-founded. But if you could go back in time and talk to him about any topic, what do you think you would talk to him about?
Mat Kaplan: I think I would probably talk to him about that PB&J, Bill Nye's famous passion, beauty, and joy, because it's what I talked to his life partner, his professional partner, Ann Druyan about. It's what we talked to Ann about just recently on the anniversary of Carl's birth, Sagan Day, which he does not mind people calling it that. I would also talk to him about his optimism about what's waiting for us out there and what we will be discovering. When we lost Carl ... And he was gone. He had sadly passed away before I got to the society. We knew by that time exoplanets were starting to be discovered. We did not know, we did not have enough data yet to confirm that planets are the rule, that if there's a star, there's a pretty good shot at ... I mean far better than even that you're going to find worlds circling that star. I'm sure that he would be thrilled to see what we've accomplished. I'm sure he would be waiting with baited breath to see samples come back from Mars and dig into those and see if we find any fossils, or maybe even better stuff that would tell us something was alive up there once, if not now. He would be just as big a promoter of the human potential, not just across the universe but here on the pale blue dot. It would be such fun. I was so honored when Ann Druyan told me on that recent show that she was sure that Carl would've been as fond as me as she is. Oh my God. I can only hope that that would've been the case, but it sure would've been fun to talk to him.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It would be. If I ever invent a time machine or if anybody out there wants to tartos us into the past. He's definitely one of my heroes and your heroes. But I'm wondering, while you've been adventuring out in the wild, if anyone has ever recognized you and approached you and been like, "Are you Mat Kaplan? Thank you for everything," because it should have happened.
Mat Kaplan: It happens once in a while. It will happen to you not that often, face for radio, because people just don't see it that often. But it depends on the venue. I mean if you go to the Kennedy Space Center to watch LightSail get launched, you're likely to run into Planetary Radio listeners and they may have seen a picture. If you go to the Air and Space Museum in DC, there's a chance that somebody, some space fan might recognize you. It's not like Stephen Colbert walking down the street. But it is fun and it is always fun to correspond with, to interact with listeners, which I get to do all the time. I have to apologize, I am only now beginning, I hope, to catch up on all of the wonderful mail I have gotten since we announced that I'd be leaving, because I just have not had time. It has been so gratifying and rewarding to get all that mail from people. So that's mostly where my interaction with listeners comes from. You'll soon be finding out ... Well, you're already finding out ... just how much of it there is and what a great listenership this show has. I'm not just buttering you up, folks. We're very proud of the audience we have for Planetary Radio in terms of not just quantity but quality. It means that we get to do exactly the kind of show that we would like to do and that you seem to enjoy.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. The messages I've been getting from people so far have just been so wonderful. I'm sure I'll end up in that same situation where I'm just under a pile of emails, but I'm going to try to write back as many people as I can.
Mat Kaplan: I recommend it. It's something I've always tried to do. It's only in this last few months that I've really fallen way behind. It's tough to just sit down and think, "Oh my god, can I get through a hundred of these in the next couple of hours or whatever?" The best place to do it is on the train going to Pasadena and back. But you live too close to the office to be able to do that.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I don't know how many emails I can respond to in about a 10-minute walk.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. But as I do it, I'll use the word again, it's so gratifying and it's so stimulating that once I get into it, it really becomes a pleasure, once I sit down and chain myself to the desk and get started.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: There's still more to come in my interview with Mat Kaplan, former host and creator of Planetary Radio. We'll be back after a short message from Star Trek's George Takei.
George Takei: Hello, I'm George Takei. As you know, I'm very proud of my association with Star Trek. Star Trek was a show that looked to the future with optimism, boldly going where no one had gone before. I want you to know about a very special organization called The Planetary Society. They are working to make the future that Star Trek represents a reality. When you become a member of The Planetary Society, you join their mission to increase discoveries in our solar system, to elevate the search for life outside our planet and decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid. Co-founded by Carl Sagan and led today by CEO Bill Nye, The Planetary Society exists for those who believe in space exploration to take action together. So join The Planetary Society and boldly go together to build our future.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, even after you're done being host of Planetary radio, I really hope that people still come up to you. If you're listening to this right now and you ever see Mat Kaplan in the wild, please stop him and tell him how amazing he is, because you are, Mat. You are amazing.
Mat Kaplan: I hope at least some of them have a pie that they want to put in my face. Maybe one or two. That was actually a tradition we had that I started with my co-manager at my college radio station, was a pie in the face for the incoming general manager of the station. We started that with the guy who followed us, my good friend Dane Stone.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Did that go well? Did anyone get mad for being pied in the face?
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. Well, fortunately, he wasn't allergic to anything in the pie, but, yeah, it became a nice tradition.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: So other than visiting or talking to cool people, you get to go off on adventures. You've seen so many cool space locations and different spacecraft while you've been around. What are the coolest places you've been to during your time as host?
Mat Kaplan: These trips really do stand out as much as the live shows, because there's nothing like getting up in front of an audience and talking to these same heroes and just ... Because the audience is already into it, otherwise they wouldn't be there. It's just so exciting. Yeah, I have had some pretty great adventures, getting up close to a space shuttle that eventually did not launch while I was there. So not only did you and I miss Artemis 1, but I never got to see a shuttle launch either. So we got to make it out to one of these SLS launches, Sarah.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: We have to. What's the first launch you ever got to go to?
Mat Kaplan: The first launch that I ever saw was the launch of LightSail 1.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: No kidding. That's awesome.
Mat Kaplan: No kidding. Yeah, not long ago at all. Then the second one was the Falcon Heavy that took up LightSail 2. So, yeah, you would maybe think that I had lived at these places because you and I both know people who never miss a launch. We have coworkers who live at either at KSC or now they're waiting for Starship to launch in Texas. But, no, I've just never much had the opportunity. I hope to see some more, especially SLS. Yeah, those trips to KSC have always been wonderful. Certainly a standout, it's on my business card, is the trip I made to the ALMA Array in the Atacama, high above the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, 16,500 feet, 5,000 meters. I love to point out the little can of oxygen that they issued to each of us, because you had to take hits off at every two or three minutes, because you'd start getting really silly before you passed out on the ground. I was so frightened because we all had to have notes from our doctors, and then they gave us another exam when we got there. Then there were still people, healthier looking people than me, who couldn't get off the bus when we reached the high site. They were too sick from lack of oxygen. I was so relieved when I was able to get up and walk around and enjoy that site. Sometimes you don't even have to go that far. Every trip that I've made to Mount Wilson, which you could walk outside of The Planetary Society and look up at it. Every trip that I have ever made to Mount Palomar. These are shrines of science. These are places that hopefully will exist forever, even as the telescopes age. They are beautiful. To think what was accomplished at these places, to see and touch the chair that Edwin Hubble sat in at the hundred-inch telescope on Mount Wilson as he figured out that the universe was expanding and how fast. Yeah, he was not a nice man, but still did some amazing science. Going to the McDonald Observatory in Texas was a lot of fun, going up into the hills there. Pretty much every trip I've ever made on behalf of the society.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I actually had a conversation, my first time going up to Mount Wilson with a bunch of friends, about these trips. One of my friends called them astronomers' pilgrimages.
Mat Kaplan: Yes, absolutely.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: That feeling, that numinous feeling you get as you get to the top, looking off and thinking about the legacy of all of the discoveries made up there. I too had a moment crying touching Hubble's locker at Mount Wilson. It's just such a moment to be in that place in history and just think about everything that was accomplished there. It's wild.
Mat Kaplan: Absolutely right. I mean it's breathtaking to think ... If you go to Palomar and you look up at that still, it is such an impressive machine to look at biggest telescope of the world for decades. Then if you're lucky, they let you go up to the focus where people used to sit in the electric suit because it was freezing cold, because of course the doors are left open all night, because you want the optics to be at the same temperature as the sky, and look where people sat and did the observing, actually sat at the focus of the telescope. Just mind-boggling. By the way, they made Bruce Betts do that. This was sort of a hazing that he had to go through when he got to Caltech and they sent him to Palomar to do some observations. Apparently, at that time, it was a common practice to not tell the newbies how cold it was going to be.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's terrible.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I know. He sat up there apparently all night, just shivering and freezing to death. Then they said, "Oh, well, next time we'll give you the electric suit."
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh my gosh. I can just imagine how angry Bruce was.
Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I imagined, yeah. Probably Bruce Murray set that whole thing up for him. Bruce was his advisor at Caltech. And so, I could definitely see that.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I could see that. You said that you really enjoyed a lot of the live events that you've attended in the past and hosted, but I know some of them haven't gone as well as expected. I've heard a little bit about these stories. But was there ever a moment that one of your live events went completely off the rails?
Mat Kaplan: Yes, there was only one disaster. Pretty much we've had really good luck on all of the other live shows, minor things going wrong because that's showbiz. But this one, we were at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Bill was there. We had some other distinguished panelists, a couple of curators, or at least one from the Air and Space Museum. We were in one of the public exhibit halls, galleries with an audience. The first mistake that I had made was we had a hiphop guy. I had heard some of his recordings. He did science-based hiphop, rap songs. They were not bad. He had never had the kind of exposure that we could give him when I called him and said, "Hey, would you like to be a part of this live show we're going to do at Air and Space?" He was so thrilled, he came with his mom. Unfortunately, on stage, we had some older, more traditional panelists with us on stage who, first of all, any hiphop, even good hiphop, might have been a little bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this guy on stage was not quite as good as he sounded in his recordings. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. He was still pretty new at it back then. So there was that. Then when we got past that, we were trucking along on stage. Bill had been on stage and Bill Nye left the stage. Bill had his laptop plugged in just off the stage where we had all our other equipment plugged in. He was recharging it. He went to unplug his laptop and he pulled out the wrong plug. He pulled out the plug to our digital recorder that was recording to a physical hard drive and corrupted the hard drive, and that was the show. And so, we spent the next 45 minutes trying to think, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Can we recover this?" No, we couldn't figure out how to do it, at least not while we were there. So we thought, all right, we'll just pick up from that point and then we'll pray. It was terribly disappointing. Bill just was horrified. He was as sad and disappointed and sorrowful as I have ever seen the science guy. We brought it home and I called around. I was trying to find someplace that could recover the hard drive and finally found this company. Turned out that they were fans of Bill. We sent it up there. A month later, it came back. They had recovered the files. So we were able to put the show together. It was only two or three months later than we had planned, but we did get to do the show. But my god, as we were doing it live, it was time to crawl into a hole, except that I couldn't because the show must go on.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: That sounds like my own personal nightmare. Oh my gosh. Well, I'll make sure in the future, I'll try to label all my plugs. But we'll forgive Bill if he accidentally unplugs them because he's amazing.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, yes, yes, yes. He's eminently forgivable.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: What have been the biggest changes for The Planetary Society since you came on board? Many things have changed. Obviously our website and things like that have been updated. Planetary Radio is a podcast now. But culturally it's also very different, right?
Mat Kaplan: Oh, very much so, yeah. There are some things I miss about the old days. I mean I miss some of the individuals because they were wonderful and so dedicated. No more dedicated than the folks we have now. We do have now, I believe, the best group of people, certainly that I've experienced at the society overall, but also just simply the best, most dedicated, the smartest, present company very much included, group of people in any organization that I've worked for. We all believe in our mission. Well, that was true back then as well. But like I said, it was a much smaller organization and there were dynamics that were going on where people ... You could hear some yelling and banging on tables every now and then, which was sometimes part of the charm of the organization. It was much smaller. We'd had some difficult times. Organizations have to evolve. It's evolve or die, just like living things, and we needed to evolve. To the credit of some of our leadership back then, like Lou Friedman, Lou recognized that we were entering a new era. I mean, for example, we had always had tremendous success. We'd always based a lot of our fundraising and member-raising on direct mail. Direct mail is still very important, but it's not as important as it used to be. We had never had much of a development department. We didn't have a development director until actually fairly recent in the history of the society. Lou also recognized that we were going to have to go out and do what nonprofits do and not just look for our members, because even though members are still our very, very most important source of revenue and they make the society possible, if we really wanted to achieve our dreams, we were going to have to go beyond that. That was not something that Lou ... He had done it, but it wasn't really something he wanted to do. It wasn't part of the original plan of the society. Now we have this very sophisticated development department and they're doing wonderful work. They're also providing services to our members, and I think that's at a higher level than we've ever had before as well. But as we grew and people were able to specialize ... I don't want to say siloed because we still all are really good at talking to each other. In fact, we're better at communicating amongst ourselves now than we ever were before, and that has tremendous benefits. I think that that's also a place where we've changed. It had to happen because, as you know, we have staff working remotely all over North America, even locally. We have people who are pretty spread out. I mean I consider myself a local person, but I'm over a hundred miles away down in the San Diego area. So thank goodness all the tools came along that enabled organizations like ours and others to do this kind of work without having to have everybody show up at the office at the same time. That certainly was very helpful when the pandemic reared its head as well. We still have this wonderful mission. Some of our direction has changed a little bit. Lou Friedman will talk about that. Some of it really had to change so that we could keep up with the time. Some of the ways in which we target our message had to change. But I think, I know Lou is, and I'm pretty sure that Bruce Murray, who was around to see a good part of this transition, and even Carl Sagan, I hope, would be very proud of what they see The Planetary Society doing today based on what they started way back in 1980.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I truly hope so. I feel like the future is so bright. We're right on the cusp of releasing all of these wonderful new things. In all honesty, I have never worked at a place where my coworkers are so just welcoming and caring, and the audience that we serve. All of our members around the world are finally going to get a real chance to connect with each other. I'm really hoping that we can invite even more people from all around the world to join our space family.
Mat Kaplan: You bet. Yeah. Yeah. Everybody should be on board. We can all ride this pale blue dot together and explore the rest of the universe together. The Planetary Society is, as far as I know, the best place to get involved in that.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Things are changing, your role is changing. Are there any things about what you're going to be doing ... You're going to be senior communications advisor at The Planetary Society now instead.
Mat Kaplan: I love that new title.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's a great title. What does that mean?
Mat Kaplan: I don't know yet. I just heard it for the first time the other day myself. I like it a lot. I'm going to miss having Planetary Radio host/producer or producer/host, whatever it says on my card, now, but, hey, that's your job now. You're the one who should get that on your card. I don't know. I mean, like I said, I'm looking forward to that member community. I am looking forward to working more with our advisory council. We have our board of directors, but we also have an extremely talented advisory council, which I know Jennifer Vaughn very much wants to take more advantage of their talents and their skills. That is something that we are talking about. There are a few other projects that I don't think I'm at liberty to talk about yet. I think we're still going to be doing some live events now and then. I hope that I will be at the Planetary Defense Conference, which is that biannual conference that The Planetary Society is always a sponsor of, where we get together with the worldwide community that wants to save our planet from the fate of the dinosaurs. That's going to be in Vienna this coming spring. I've never been to Vienna and I sure hope I-
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm sure it'd be so fun.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, I hope I get to make that trip. It's just such a fun conference to go to, especially when they do the tabletop exercise. These evil geniuses come up with scenarios where we gradually learn more and more about some big rock that is about to eventually take out a big piece of our planet. You have all these professionals, scientists, engineers, public safety, emergency management people, government officials, law enforcement. They all get together and talk about here's how we're going to respond to this. It becomes real. Even though everybody knows it's just an exercise, it becomes completely real and people get very worked up. It makes for great radio.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I mean I'm glad people are taking it seriously. I mean trying to save the world, no big deal.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, we're just trying to save the world, as Bill says.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, I'm glad you've got some wonderful adventures lined up. Maybe one of these days, we'll go to one of these conferences together.
Mat Kaplan: You really should. Yeah, I'm sure you would love the Planetary Defense Conference. I hope that there will be money in the budget for you to go to some of the other things that happen every year, like DPS, Division of Planetary Sciences, because there is nothing like getting out there and actually rubbing shoulders with all the people who are doing this amazing work exploring our solar system and beyond.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: The future's bright. I'm looking forward to it.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah, definitely.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, before I let you go, Mat, is there anything you want to say to our Planetary Radio listeners right now? I mean I know I and many other people are going to miss you as host of the show.
Mat Kaplan: I have always been from the start blown away by the listeners to this show, by the things that they tell me, how they entertain us when they write in with their funny answers to the weekly space trivia contest, the insights they have, the experiences that they share having to do with watching the skies or participating in or just being a fan of space exploration, going to a launch, and maybe most of all how maybe, because I've been around long enough, some of them started listening to the show as kids and now they are PhDs doing research in planetary science or some related field. I mean what could be more gratifying than that, to know that maybe you had a little piece of helping them to get past all the hurdles and become one of those heroes that we talked to on the show. I mean I could, I won't because I don't want to embarrass them. But I could name people who I used to hear from when they were undergraduates who are now leaders in the field of planetary science. Man, I've been around long enough to do that. I love all of you folks out there. You are a wonder. Of course, those of you who have chosen to become members of The Planetary Society, I have to thank you because you've also been helping to pay my salary and Sarah's and everybody else's. You're part of the adventure. I sure hope to continue to interact with them. We know this from just the numbers that we're able to follow. We have one of the most loyal audiences of any podcast in any genre. I mean that just says a lot to me about people out there. So thank you everybody. You're just going to love listening to Sarah and what she does with the show as she begins her 20-year tenure or, who knows, maybe more.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I can only hope. I know our audience isn't here to say this, so I'm going to try to say it without getting emotional, Mat. But thank you from the bottom of my heart for just two decades of working at The Planetary Society, creating the show that we love so much, and inspiring so many people to love space. I can't imagine the enumerable people around the world that fell in love with the cosmos because of you. So thank you for that and for everything you've taught me. I cannot say it enough, you're amazing.
Mat Kaplan: Sarah, thank you. Fortunately, we are surrounded by amazing people in our organization, and our members. So it takes one to know one. Thanks for letting me rant on a little bit on your very first show as host of Planetary Radio, first of many, many, many. I hope that you enjoy this wonderful intersection, this wonderful Venn diagram of space and radio/podcasting as much as I have. I think you're off to a great start.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Thanks, Mat. I'm sure it's going to be wonderful. Hopefully I'll talk to you again in the future.
Mat Kaplan: I hope so. Ad astra.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Thanks so much, Mat. I am going to treasure that interview for the rest of my life. It marks a big moment for me, but also Mat really deserves all of the appreciation we can throw his way. If you'd like to let Mat Kaplan know how much you've loved his time as host of Planetary Radio, please don't hesitate to email us, [email protected]. Now it's time for What's Up. I'm joined by our chief scientist of The Planetary Society, the great Dr. Bruce Betts. Welcome, Bruce.
Bruce Betts: Ooh, I like that introduction.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, I'm sure I'll have many, many more and maybe they will get meaner as time goes on. I'm kidding.
Bruce Betts: Thank you, great and wonderful and powerful Sarah.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: So, Bruce, what's up?
Bruce Betts: Well, as you're probably aware, there are a bunch of really cool planets up to look at in the evening sky. We've got almost all of them that you can see with just your eyes in the evening. So soon after sunset, you can look low in the west and Venus will look super bright, if you've got a clear view to the horizon. If not, just wait a few weeks. It'll keep getting higher over time. Up above that, considerably but getting closer is Saturn looking yellowish. Above that, very high in the sky and white-looking is bright Jupiter. We've got Mars. Mars, too. So everyone but Mercury, and even Mercury was playing with us, but I think it'll be tough to see right now. But Mars looking reddish and high in the sky in the evening, so you don't even have to wake up early.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I remember last week you were saying that Mercury was getting lower to the horizon as Mat was leaving. I didn't say it, but I still have this internal joke going on in my head about just wait for the moment that Mat goes into retrograde.
Bruce Betts: Oh, I've seen it. It's not pretty. Well, this is fun. I can pick on Mat and he's not even here, although he's on the show.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Right. He's not going to defend himself.
Bruce Betts: I'm sure the interview is tremendous. I haven't heard it yet. Let us go on to this week in space history. It seems like yesterday, 1610, in an amazing coincidence, Galileo discovered the Galilean satellites this week in 1610. Of course, he wanted to name them after the Medici family, so that's not really a very good show. He discovered all of them except Ganymede, the largest, which was probably hiding behind her in front of Jupiter. Then a few days later, my dog Gracie discovered it. No, Galileo discovered it. She just loves Ganymede. She gets very excited. Let us move on to the first official Sarah show [inaudible 00:57:17].
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Gracie liked that one, too. I know classically we put a little bit of a reverb on that, but how do you feel about autotune?
Bruce Betts: In the music industry, I'm offended by it. But for my voice, sure. I'm hypocritical. Well, hey, I've got a fun random space fact, I think. The surface area of Saturn's moon, Enceladus, is about equal to that of Turkey, the country, or Mozambique, whereas the surface area of the other very interesting astrobiologic moon with liquid water ocean, Europa, surface area of Europa, about equal to all of Africa.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: [inaudible 00:57:58].
Bruce Betts: So we have Mozambique versus Africa. They are really different in size, which is easy to lose track of.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm just trying to imagine what it's going to be like in the future when people can do a full tour of Enceladus. I don't know. Would you go on vacation to Enceladus? I feel like that would be very cold, but also very exciting.
Bruce Betts: Very cold, very lacking in atmosphere. A little bit of snow.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah, I think I might die without wifi and video games.
Bruce Betts: All right. Well, you're going to like the new trivia question. But first we're going to review the previous trivia question. I asked you what observed astronomical event did Tycho Brahe write about in the book De Nova Stella? How'd we do? This is something that you have some professional familiarity with is my impression.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah, supernova, took a lot of images of those. Of course, you gave a huge hint and I guess the name itself gives a huge hint in that De Nova Stella has to be some kind of supernova. We got a lot of great answers, many wonderful poems about it actually.
Bruce Betts: Wow.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: But in the end, we've got our winner. We're going with Robert Laporta from Connecticut, USA, who said, "In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe noticed a new bright star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It was an explosion of a star into a supernova about 7,500 light years away."
Bruce Betts: Yeah, good old SN 1572.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: The name just rolls right off the tongue.
Bruce Betts: Well, it's not too bad compared to other naming things. SN, Supernova, of 1572, the year it happened. But, yeah, it rolled off my tongue.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Of course, we got a lot of other wonderful messages along with it, not just answers to our trivia question. But I'm not sure if people are sick of these wonderful, heartfelt messages to me and Mat yet, but I am not sick of it yet. So I'm going to read a few of these, just because they-
Bruce Betts: Okay, good. Excellent.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... make me really happy in my heart.
Bruce Betts: Oh.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, it's true, though. I mean-
Bruce Betts: No, I'm kidding.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... this is one of those things that's just ... I know you're kidding. But, quite honestly, I've been grappling with how weird this moment in my life is and how ... I don't know. If someone had told me 10 years ago, 20 years ago that I'd be getting wonderful messages from people all around the world, I don't know if I would've believed it.
Bruce Betts: So it's a good thing.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It is.
Bruce Betts: Yay.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: No, I'm just hoping.
Bruce Betts: Congratulations. You deserve them.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: So we've got this one from Pavel Kumesha who's from Minsk, Belarus, who says, "So long, Mat, and thanks for the fascinating episodes. Of course, Sarah, it's great to finally hear you as the new host of Planetary Radio. Welcome aboard."
Bruce Betts: Oh, that's nice.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I know, right?
Bruce Betts: You get anything else?
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I did get another one from Burt Caldwell in New York, New York, who said, "Welcome Sarah on her first episode. Looking forward to many years of great episodes." Me, too. Hopefully, in 20 years, I will have even vaguely as much poise as Mat did. One more message I'll read from Paul Ryan from Limerick, Ireland, who said, "Thank you for the most excellent radio show over the past number of years. I've been a loyal weekly listener." I'm hoping Paul will continue to listen. I will do my best.
Bruce Betts: I'm sure it'll be good. It is so far. How about we go on to the new trivia question then?
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Let's do this.
Bruce Betts: All right. As you've already dropped, you are a bit of a gamer.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: This is true.
Bruce Betts: And so, I'm going back in time, but maybe you'll bond with this. What planetary system was the setting for the majority of the original Doom video game?
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, snap.
Bruce Betts: Go to planetary.org/radiocontest. Get your entry. So what planetary system was the setting for the original Doom? It didn't factor much into it, but still technically it was set in our solar system. Oh, except when they went to hell. We're not counting that as a planetary system.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm trying to think. Wasn't there some movie back in the day, like Event Horizon, where some spaceship accidentally ended up in hell while trying to jump to Jupiter?
Bruce Betts: Oh, undoubtedly. I don't know, but our listeners do.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: But our listeners do. I'm sure some of them will know the answer to this question. I will keep it to myself. But anybody who's listening who wants to join in on this trivia contest, you have until Wednesday, January 11th, at 8:00 AM, Pacific Time, to get us the answer. You're probably going to want to get in on this one because we actually have a special prize this time. Not that squishy asteroids aren't awesome, but I love this one. We have two signed images from Mat Kaplan. So if anybody wants to answer this question, we will send you a beautiful image of Mat Kaplan that you can keep forever and remember him.
Bruce Betts: 20 years. 20 years I do a show with this guy, I never get an autographed picture. Now we're giving them away.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's true. Would you like one, Bruce?
Bruce Betts: Yes, but no. Give these to people. I'll attack Mat someday and get one.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I've got extras in the office so he can sign one just special for you.
Bruce Betts: Yeah, it's probably bad. Okay. We good?
Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think we're good. It is time for your signature outro, Bruce.
Bruce Betts: All right, everybody. Go out there, look up the night sky and think about new opportunities. Thank you and goodnight.
Sarah Al-Ahmed: Thanks, Bruce. That was Bruce Betts, the chief scientist here at The Planetary Society. He'll be popping in each week for our What's Up segment. Thank you all for joining me for my first episode as host of Planetary Radio. Come back next week as we celebrate the amazing success of NASA's Artemis 1 mission. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by our amazing stargazing members. You can become part of our quest to explore worlds, find life, and defend Earth at planetary.org/join. Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. Special thanks to our new audio editor, Andrew Lucas. Until next time, ad astra.