The Randii Wessen Show: January 13th, 2014

Show Notes for Episode 181, January 13th, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Hugh, Ryan, Jen
Title: The Randii Wessen Show

The York Universe crew was delighted to invite Randii Wessen, the Deputy Manager of Project Formulation at JPL, to the show. An unbelievably interesting conversation ensued! Show notes and podcast below.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. Huygens anniversary landing on Titan January 13 2005.  Historic “soft landing” on Saturnian moon with some amazing imagery and data from the parachute descent and the surface.
2. First NASA female Astronaut selected 1978 January 12: Sally Ride.  First flight STS 7 in 1983.  July 23 2012 died at age 61 (from cancer).  Youngest NASA astronaut to fly into space.  Significant contributions to NASA and spaceflight both in orbit and as an administrator and educator.  Inspirational!

-ASX’s 11th Annual Symposium (January 24th at the University of Toronto). This year’s theme is “Into the Cosmos” (Link to register).  Free to all students.  An excellent event based upon teh past events.
– “Creative Writing meets Interstellar Space” Contest
– Antares rocket built by private company Orbital Sciences Corp. successfully launched on Thursday January 9 and the Cygnus supply craft has successfully docked with the ISS. This is exciting because we’ve had two private space launches in the space of one week, both on different missions. Good news for the era of private spaceflight!

Major Topics Discussed (45 minutes):

Guest Speaker: Dr. Randii Wessen
Biography: Our guest speaker Dr. Randii Wessen is the Deputy Manager of the Project Formulation office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has been with JPL for 30 years, starting as the Voyager Science Sequence Coordinator for the Uranus and Neptune encounters. He helped with the Cassini program, building a spacecraft destined for Saturn. He didn’t stop there, he became the Telecommunication and Mission System Manager for the Mars program. In his 30 years at JPL, Dr. Wessen even helped with searching for Earth like planets around other stars.

Question given to Randii and discussed

  • His perspective on how planetary exploration has changed and stayed the same over the years.  Namely, what are the similarities and differences between mission planning now and in the 80’s? 90’s? 2000’s?  This might bring up attitudes, political pressure, budget constraints, technology, etc.

  • What he thinks we’ve got good at in the time he’s been involved in exploration: What’s one big thing we do way better now when planning and implementing missions that we didn’t do when he first started.  What is something that we still need to get better at even after all these years.

  • From his perspective, personally, the most rewarding moment.  Most nervewracking moment.  If it were up to Randii, where would humanity explore next?

  • Would like to hear more about the Cassini research exchange.

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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