July 5, 2014 10:54 am

“In Your Face” – Get ready for the conclusion of Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco

Photo of Carolyn Porco inspecting one of Galileo's telescopes in Stockholm, Sweden, 2009

Carolyn Porco checking out one of Galileo’s telescopes in Stockholm, Sweden, 2009. Photo courtesy of carolynporco.com

What do the Pale Blue Dot, The Day the Earth Smiled, the movie Contact and the iconic scene in the Star Trek reboot when the Enterprise rises out of Titan’s atmosphere all have in common?

Carolyn Porco.

You’ll get all the delicious details in tomorrow night’s conclusion to Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco, in what might be one of our most inspiring interviews we’ve ever done.

At one point, Carolyn proudly tells Neil that she is “tactless and in your face” and all I could think of is the phrase that we had on a magnet on our refrigerator for years: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Carolyn tells Neil a story about how the powers that be at JPL dismissed her radical idea to modify Voyager 1 to take a photo of the Earth from out in space, the same way she discovered they’d done to Carl Sagan two years earlier. So the two of them joined forces… and the rest is history, or at least, a photograph that has gone down in history as one of the most paradigm-shifting photographs ever taken.

She talks about her efforts as Cassini Imaging Team leader to not only take a picture of Earth from Saturn, but also to tell people in advance so they could participate. “…how better to let them know how far humans have come in the exploration of the solar system: it becomes something personal to them.” It wasn’t easy, but the result was The Day the Earth Smiled, a picture that made page 1 of the NY Times.

But it is her influence on pop culture, or at least, Hollywood, that may be even more surprising. She tells Neil about how she met JJ Abrams, and her influence on his reboot of the Star Trek franchise (and how she could have helped them avoid a pretty ridiculous scientific faux pas if only they’d asked her). And she talks about working with Carl, Ann Druyan, and the producer and director of the movie Contact to flesh out the character of Ellie Arroway, played by Jodi Foster in the movie.

The funniest part of the episode is when she discusses the 1999 NY Times interview where they asked Carolyn why she never married, but I’ll leave her to tell you that herself.

Tune in for host Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-host Chuck Nice, and Madame Saturn herself, Carolyn Porco this Sunday July 6 at 7:00 pm ET on our website, or on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and TuneIn.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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