NASA Psyche Mission showcases virtual gallery for national student artists

June 17, 2020

The Psyche Mission team, led by Arizona State University, encountered an interesting challenge this spring, as college campuses closed around the country due to COVID-19. The mission’s Psyche Inspired program had a team of undergraduate students creating works of art inspired by the mission, but were now without access to their on-campus studios or workspaces and without physical exhibit areas to share their art with the community.

Undeterred, however, some students brought their projects off campus and continued to work on them from home, while others changed their project to be something that could be completed digitally or with more commonly available materials.  ink sketch of the asteroid Psyche "Psyche 16" in pen and ink by Psyche Inspired intern Chase Mortensen, a computer science major at Utah State University. According to the artist, this piece emphasizes the rays of light surrounding the asteroid and the many different angles from which the asteroid will be observed and analyzed. Download Full Image

Another adjustment the team made due to campus closures was to move the year-end artist’s showcase, which had previously been a hybrid of online and physical exhibits on the ASU campus, to a completely online format.

For this to be successful, the team created a completely immersive experience for the public, including a 3D virtual gallery from Artsteps and a mobile app, developed by ASU undergraduate student Jennifer Breunig. Through these platforms, visitors can experience the artworks of each student as if they were walking through a gallery, reading about each artist and a description of their work.

The mission’s virtual showcase webpage also highlights the artworks and includes video interviews of students discussing their experiences in the program and art they created on each of their individual profile pages.

“Even our artists, who, though they had never met in person, had seen each other’s work all year, found the online showcase to be an exciting culmination of the group’s efforts,” said Psyche Inspired program lead and mission co-investigator Cassie Bowman.

Psyche Inspired Cobalt Class

Psyche Inspired selects 16 students each year from a national pool of applicants. This year’s interns, known as the “Cobalt Class,” includes students from 13 different universities nationwide (this year the class included three students from ASU) and a variety of disciplines. All students worked together remotely, meeting weekly via video conferencing to learn about the mission and share ideas and inspiration. These talented individuals created over 60 artworks about the NASA Psyche Mission, with mediums ranging from digital art to dance. 

“People sometimes don’t think that art and science go together,” said Binh-An Nguyen, a Psyche Inspired intern who is a chemistry major and art minor at Temple University. “As someone who really wants to go into a future career field that involves art and science, I think it’s great for them to realize how integral they are to each other and also see how the two of them together can create something wonderful.”

Fellow intern Monica Moreno, a jewelry and metalworking major at Pasadena City College agrees. “For some reason, I believed that art had no place in a field like (space exploration), but a lot of the people working on this mission are artistic and use their creativity and artistic skills in more ways than one to do their jobs,” she said.

Undergraduates in the program also found value in working with interns with different backgrounds and majors. “There’s an importance in having people who view things from other perspectives and who have different specializations than you, and this is a strength and a benefit,” said Psyche Inspired intern Fiona Schneider, a graphic design major at University of Florida. “It allows you to learn so much more than sticking to working with like-minded crowds.” Intern Joyce Tsui, an art major at the University of California Santa Barbara, agrees: “I truly felt close to everyone on this team, even though we were miles and miles apart.”

How to apply for the Psyche Inspired program

The Psyche Inspired application for 2020-21 will go live later this summer, in late June or early July. Psyche Inspired is open to all talented, creative full-time enrolled undergraduate students at universities and community colleges in the United States or its territories, regardless of major.

Psyche Inspired artist Noah Keime, a biology and studio art major at Creighton University, is a big proponent of the program and encourages other undergraduates to apply. “Always try out for something, even if you don’t think you’ll get it,” he said. “You should really shoot above what you think you can get because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Ral Vandenhoudt, a biology and economics major at Emory University, echoes that sentiment. “If there is an opportunity, why not try taking it?” he said. “See where that road leads, even if you have very little idea of what's actually along it. That leap of faith really did pay off."

And for enthusiasts who are not undergraduates, but would like to share their works of art inspired by Psyche, the mission team created the #PsycheSpaceCRAFTY program, which provides an opportunity for everyone to submit their inspired creations to the mission team.

About the Psyche Mission

Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter, is likely made largely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets.

The Psyche spacecraft is planned to launch in August 2022 and travel to the asteroid using solar-electric (low thrust) propulsion. After flying by Mars in 2023 for a gravity assist, the spacecraft will arrive at Psyche in 2026 and spend 21 months orbiting the asteroid, mapping it and studying its properties.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to the Earth's core, and what its surface is like.

The spacecraft's instrument payload will include a magnetometer, a multispectral imager, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. The mission will also test a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC).

The mission is led by Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies is providing a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.

This article was written by Psyche Mission intern, Kaxandra Nessi

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Juneteenth reasserts role of Black freedom in U.S. historical narrative

June 18, 2020

Millions will celebrate annual observance known as America's second Independence Day on June 19

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” was born out of what was once referred to as the “peculiar institution” of the United States.

It references the day 155 years ago this year when a quarter of a million people — still held captive in the years after the Emancipation ProclamationIssued on Jan. 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared free all people living in slavery in Confederate States that were still in rebellion. — walked away from the fields in which they were forced to toil; out of the houses in which they served under duress; and onto the roads they constructed to begin a new but uncertain future as free men, women and children.

It has been called America’s “second Independence Day." But for many, particularly those whose ancestry and lineage have been all but scrubbed from the annals of American history due to 250 years of that peculiar institution, Juneteenth has come to represent a true day of independence from slaveholding rule.

Duku AnokyeDuku Anokye 

Growing in observances and recognition, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or observance in 46 states. But it has been a slow journey to awareness — due in part to active efforts by some to keep Juneteenth out of the history books, said Duku Anokye, an associate professor of Africana language, literature and culture in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies at Arizona State University's New College.

AnokyeA sociolinguist, Anokye's research focuses on African diaspora orality and literacy practices, folklore, discourse analysis and oral history with a specialization in Ghanaian culture, religion, storytelling and dance. — in collaboration with her sister Rebecca Hankins, a librarian and curator of Africana resources at Texas A&M University — recently shared more about the history and significance of Juneteenth with ASU Now:

Question: What is Juneteenth, and what is the tradition behind the observance of the day?

Answer: Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day, is the combining of June and the 19th day to commemorate the day enslaved Africans were freed in Texas in 1865. Texas was the last Confederate state to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. It is celebrated as the day the last enslaved Africans were freed, two years and six months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all enslaved Africans in the 10 remaining Confederate states on Jan. 1, 1863.

Q: Why was the Emancipation Proclamation not enforced in Texas?

A: At the time of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, there were no Union soldiers in Texas to enforce the order. Many of the white slave owners fled to Texas in the hopes of using it as a sanctuary and garrison against the Union, a place where they could maintain their status. On June 18, Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. June 19 is the day the enslaved Africans were finally informed of their free status. Here is the proclamation, titled General Order No. 3, read by General Granger: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."

Q: What happened to the belatedly freed men and women of Texas after they received the news of their emancipation?

A: Many of the freed enslaved men and women claimed land left after owners abandoned them to the Union Army. The newly freed celebrated by dragging their former slave cabins away from the slave quarters and into their own fields. Women reduced their labor in the fields and could now devote more time to childcare and their own homes. Now families could work for their own prosperity and livelihoods. This ended when President Andrew Johnson, himself a former slave owner, restored many of the liberated lands to the former slave owners. This led many freed people to enter into sharecropping — that became another way of forcing them to work for former masters that inevitably caused them to lose their land and independence.

Q: How was Juneteenth first celebrated?

A: Stories are told of freed people wearing their best clothes and walking everywhere so they could be seen as free. Many left their plantations as a symbol of their freedom. Others traveled to nearby states attempting to find family members sold away. It was a time of celebration and uncertainty. For years, African Americans celebrated Juneteenth by returning to Galveston, Texas, as an annual pilgrimage to the place where they first learned of their freedom. They went to share prayer, food and celebration.

Q:  It feels like we are at a point in time culturally where Americans are taking a deeper look at history and some of the narratives that have been left out of history books. Where does Juneteenth fall in with those “lost” narratives?  

A: Juneteenth is viewed as a Texas-centered event; it is not taught in history textbooks around the U.S. The United Daughters of the Confederacy — founded in 1894, and whose stated mission was to commemorate the Confederacy and erect memorials to them — and also the Ku Klux Klan are directly responsible for ensuring that the stories in K–12 textbooks were changed and excluded any mention of Juneteenth history. They worked strategically with legislatures and school committees to change the narrative of the Confederacy to that of “states’ rights,” “the Lost Cause mythology,” and “heroism” rather than one of traitors and enslavers. They pushed to erect statues to Confederate symbols and generals all throughout the country and pushed to change textbook portrayals of enslaved Africans to happy and docile in plantation life, but savage and immoral as freed people. This perception has continued, as evidenced by the massive social protests that we are witnessing today in response to this brutalization of people of color and particularly people of African descent. It is worth noting that there has been a growth in Juneteenth observances around the country in the past few decades, including here in Arizona. 

For more on the history of Juneteenth: Read our Q&A with Professor Calvin Schermerhorn of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Top photo: Participants march over Market Street near Independence Mall during the annual Juneteenth parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 23, 2018. Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, commemorates the announcement of the overdue abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865. Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/Getty Images

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