Broadcast 3447 Janelle Wellons

The Space Foundation Conference

14 Jan 2020 Janelle Wellons
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Guest:  Janelle Wellons; Topics: Titan and additional solar system settlement opportunities, instrument operations engineer, planetary missions, STEM & STEAM educational outreach and more.

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We welcomed Janelle Wellons to the show for a one segment 75 minute discussion on settlement opportunities in the solar system, STEM and STEAM, instrument operations engineering, planetary missions and more.  We started the discussion with Janelle with my asking her about instrument operations engineering as this was new to me.  Our guest talked about planetary missions, instrument engineering, needs for long lasting instrumentation on planetary missions, computer work, coding, software, and more.  I asked if our guest was trained to do this work in her engineering program at MIT.  As we learned, most of this training came from on the job training.  We spent time talking about this field, planetary mission instructions, coding, software, and hardware.  Our perspective for this discussion was different than what we normally talk about with planetary mission engineering and PI guests so pay attention as it was very informative.

We followed this discussion by asking about the comments and articles made by our guest regarding space settlement on Titan.  Ms. Wellons was not the first Space Show guest to talk about Titan as a place for space settlement as it is a fairly popular topic.  In discussing the subject, Janelle pointed out that she was expressing her personal opinion.  She said she was interested in Titan because it was and is so mysterious.  Our guest also talked about the thick atmosphere and the methane lakes.  Don't miss her commentary about these features.  She pointed us to some exciting Titan exploration opportunities as a result of these features. 

In addition to Titan settlement considerations, Janelle mentioned settlement considerations for Enceladus and Europa.  She had much to say about each location so don't miss why she sees settlement potential on each of them.  In talking about settlement, the subject of searching for intelligent life and JPL came up.  I asked our guest how JPL perceived the issue of searching for ET life.  Our guest had some interesting observations and comments for us on this particular topic.  Not only did she mention JPL humor but she talked about the historic Voyager mission(s) and the golden record onboard.

We fielded many listener emails during our discussion.  Allison asked about our current life support capabilities.  She wanted to know if we could handle space settlement life support today or did we need to still make giant leaps in our capabilities.  In responding to this question, our guest referenced an Italian research opportunity she had as a student involving a lunar greenhouse project.  This was followed with a question from Randy asking about radiation on the surface of Titan. He wanted to know if the thick atmosphere she mentioned earlier would shield and protect from radiation on the Titan surface.  Our radiation discussion then moved on to how instruments are radiation hardened, the cost of doing so, and what missions are hardened.  As part of the radiation subject, our guest talked about the MAIA mission and said since it was an Earth sensing mission, radiation was not so important other than over the South Atlantic Anomaly and there they had different ways of dealing with the radiation issues.  Don't miss this discussion.

We returned for fun comments about Titan.  Janelle talked about swimming in a methane lake. In addition, she talked about flying in the thick atmosphere like people tried to do centuries ago.  Given the thick atmosphere, it would be possible to do something like that in a flying suit.  She elaborated some more on Enceladus and Europa, including mentioning a submarine concept for Europa. 

Joe from Boston asked about outreach with her STEM and STEAM work .  Jeremy from NJ sent in comments on this subject including touring JPL.  Our guest talked about how she worked to inspire and spark interests in students, she talked about the Cassini mission and more.  She said it was important to not go too tech heavy as these young students could zone out re the tech and math.  I asked her if she offered her students a tour of JPL.

Other program topics included Mars 2020 and a request for the thinking of our guest on private missions and if she saw them as competitive to JPL missions.  Listener Penny wanted to know about returning to the Moon. In her reply about the Moon, she referred back to her Italian lunar project mission, LRO and more.  She supported returning to the Moon, learning to be in space, going to Mars from the Moon and more. 

As we were nearing the end of the show, we got an email from a student asking if one had to graduate from an MIT quality school to work at NASA and/or JPL.  Don't miss what Janelle said about schools, what to do to work at NASA and other cool jobs in aerospace, and the need to go to graduate school.

Our guest offered us concluding comments.  She also mentioned a JPL motto, "Dare Mighty Things."  We talked about JPL being a type of "Magical Kingdom," and the planned Dragonfly Titan mission.

Please post your comments/questions on our blog page for this show.  You can reach Janelle Wellons through me or her JPL website page.

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Titan settlement, space mission engineering and more

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