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KIDS SPACE - Amazing Stories - Moments of Inspiration

Todd Barber, Cassini Propulsion Engineer
Seeing the pictures from the surface of Mars from Viking during the Bicentennial summer of 1976.

I was 10 years old and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. What really cemented the deal for me, though, was the unreal pictures of Jupiter and Saturn in National Geographic in 1979 and 1980. My grandparents took the magazine and I always loved reading it, but never before like I did when I saw the results of the Voyager Missions. How wonderful that I've come full circle and worked 12.5 years at JPL, essentially on two missions--to Jupiter and Saturn!

Steve Edberg, Science Planning
When I was in pre-9th grade summer school, taking a class on study habits, I was sitting in the school library trying to write a report when I distracted myself (poor study habits!) by picking up a book on meteors and meteorites by Lincoln LaPaz. That interest blossomed over the summer and transformed into astronomy during 9th grade, which I followed through high school, college, and grad school. And here I am! Oh yeah, I did eventually finish the report - it was on neutrinos. I've always been interested in the physical sciences.

Lisa Tatge, Spacecraft Operations Software Engineer
I was already interested in science, astronomy, and space by the time I reached middle school. I'd watched Armstrong walk on the Moon and watched Star Trek to distraction.

Mosaic of Mars captured by the Viking Orbiter 1
Mosaic of Mars captured by the Viking Orbiter 1

My parents were always excited about the space program, so we talked a lot at home. What really made me want to work in the aerospace industry, however, was a JPL scientist. I don't know his name, but in 1977 he came and gave a lecture at my school about the Viking Lander mission to Mars. He talked about the why the first picture taken was that of the Lander's footpad on the surface (to make sure that it was on solid footing), why the sunset picture has stripes (the camera took pictures in strips) and what they'd learned - or not learned - about the search for life (inconclusive). I was absolutely fascinated. From then on I thought JPL would be a terrific place to work. When the opportunity to get a job at JPL presented itself, I jumped at it. I wish I knew who that JPL scientist was. I'd like to thank him for getting me started on a wonderful career.

Bonnie Buratti, VIMS Instrument Investigation Scientist
One day when I was a third grader, I was home sick from school. I started to read a book called "A Child's Book of the Stars" by Dot and Sy Barlowe. I was hooked. I particularly remember the picture of the surface of Venus, showing tropical vegetation. As an 8-year old girl, the idea of other worlds in space drew me into the world of discovery and exploration.

Paul Romani, Cassini Science Team Member
In 8th grade a science teacher gave me a book to read called, I think, "The Exploding Universe", by, I think, Nigel Henbest. That hooked me on astronomy.

OK, I got interested in math and science when I was in the 5th grade. Why I do not know, either I liked it because I was good at it or was good at it because I liked it. At least science, I struggled in math until algebra then I started doing well. (Still have problems with numbers, but symbol manipulation is easy for me.) Then in 8th grade a science teacher gave me a book to read called, I think, "The Exploding Universe", by, I think, Nigel Henbest. That hooked me on astronomy. Also read a lot of science fiction, standard space cadet type I guess. So went off to college knowing I wanted to be an astronomy major and lo and behold came out as an astronomy major. At the end of my first honest to goodness astronomy course in my sophomore year the professor asked me what part of astronomy I liked the most. I thought for a bit about this and decided the planets. This was way back in the '80s with the all Voyager missions, Viking missions, Pioneer Venus mission, etc. either just over or going on. I guess all of the new and exciting discoveries these missions were making was the final hook.

Bill Kurth, Cassini RPWS Instrument Operations Lead
I didn't know it at the time, but my 'defining moment' came as an amateur astronomer in high school. I observed auroral displays from my home a number of times. My visits to the public library for information on these beautiful displays yielded little more than "scientists do not understand the origins of the aurora".

Later, as a sophomore in college, I was talking with one of my lab instructors about his research when he handed me a draft of a paper he was writing about electric fields in the auroral zone. I think I was instantly hooked and started to work with him that same day, helping him with his research.

Linda Spilker, Deputy Project Scientist
I am a child of the Sputnik era. I was fascinated with all of the developments leading up to the moon landing. I can still remember where I was when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon!

Saturn Shading It's Rings
I got my first telescope when I was in 3rd grade. The first thing I did was use it to look at the planet Jupiter and its moons. After that, I was hooked. I knew I wanted a science career in astronomy. When the opportunity came along to work on Voyager, I jumped at it. After all, how many people can say that they have helped scientists visit the four gas giant planets! Today I am a scientist on the Cassini project and I have the chance to visit my "favorite planet", Saturn, once again. Saturn's rings have always fascinated me and now I have the opportunity to help bring some of the new ring data back to earth. After that, I get to look at the ring data and try to figure out what it all means. What a great job!

Shannon, Education Outreach Coordinator
The first time I saw a close-up image of Jupiter from the Voyager flyby I knew I wanted to be an astronomer.