CCAD student animates asteroid for NASA project

jessika raisor

What’s it like to work with NASA scientists before you graduate from college?

We asked Columbus College of Art & Design student Jessika Raisor (Animation, 2019), who was one of 15 students in the second annual class of NASA Psyche Inspired interns.

Psyche is both the name of an asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter—and the name of a NASA space mission to visit that asteroid, led by Arizona State University. And Psyche Inspired brings together undergraduate students from different majors and schools to create artistic and creative works about NASA’s Psyche mission.

We talked to Raisor about her experience. Learn more on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 7:30 p.m., when Psyche Inspired hosts the 2nd Annual NASA Psyche Inspired Showcase in Arizona and here.

What was your internship with Psyche Inspired like?

We met every Friday and because so many of the interns were not local to Arizona, we just had a video conference. We put together written pitches for our projects. So I would describe what I was planning to do, how I would do it, and how people could interact with it. The proposals then had to be approved by Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Principal Investigator for the Psyche Mission. After that, we got to work and shared updates every week. It was pretty freeform most of the time—we all did our projects, shared our work, got feedback, and were on to the next project! So it was a fun and really good chance to experiment because the whole team was really open to all kinds of art and outreach.

How did you get interested in space exploration?

I remember always being super into space. My nerdiest memory is of me going onto, pulling out my binder, and taking notes on whatever I found...for fun. There wasn’t a school assignment or project, I just did it for myself and this was when I was in elementary school. But I had a teacher who definitely supported my love for astronomy; Mrs. Thompson was my 5th grade teacher and I think she said she knew someone in NASA and so would bring in swag for the class: patches, stickers, and a glossy 8x10 of the latest space crew. Last I checked, I still have that glossy 8x10.

What was your favorite project?

My favorite project was Psyche: Mission Control. An Interactive Timeline Adventure, an interactive browser timeline/game I made. Calling it a game might a bit of a stretch because it is so linear but it is fun to click through so you be the judge. It was my first time making anything interactive. Everything I had made before that was just to be looked at or watched. But once I finished the piece I loved it and realized I want to make more things like it! It’s aimed toward kids who take control of the Psyche mission and have to guide it through space and collect data. It’s pretty basic, especially since the mission hasn’t launched yet so it’s all just “what we might find” kind of information but I think it’s still fun and engaging.

psyche inspired project

Psyche: Mission Control screencap

What was it like collaborating with other interns on storytelling?

I honestly wasn’t expecting to collaborate with the other interns because I didn’t know what everyone else was making or their openness to teaming up. But I ended up working with another intern, Ryan G. Powell, who is a music major at Albion College in Michigan. His first project was a song about Psyche, and I (and everyone else) absolutely loved it. He had asked if anyone was interested in animating it and I said, “Sure!” So we collaborated on that project, and he also made music for my browser game. Plus, I modified and extended my VR project to go with his 3D sound piece, and I drew the asteroid characters for his musical app project. So it was a lot of fun back and forth, and we had a good match up of visuals and music that I think made both of our projects a lot stronger.

Did any of the projects change the way you think about space?

The way I think of space didn’t radically change through this internship but my enthusiasm and excitement for it was definitely reignited. Up until now my knowledge of astronomy had faltered. I had new scientific interests I focused more on, and unfortunately living in the city means I wasn’t seeing as many stars. But after working with the Psyche team and creating all these projects to excite the public about the mission, I excited myself, too!

Side note: we recently had a speaker who is a member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, so if anyone else is interested in exploring the field, it’s a good group to look into.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I want to get into educational animation, especially something aimed toward kids and schools. I’ve done some scientific and medical illustration before, and my Honors Capstone project is an educational card game for middle schoolers to teach them about Comparative Anatomy. So I don’t know if the work I want to do has a specific title but my business card says Science, Animation, Illustration, and Communication—so let’s just go with that.

screencap from psyche: mission

A concept of what Psyche could look like

Where do you see the future of space exploration, art, and design?

I am still hoping for the Star Trek future where we all live in space and vacation to one of Saturn’s moons, but I don’t know how practical that will ever actually be. I do hope we as humans keep going into space, one way or another and exploring what’s out there. I mean Psyche is a metal world! We haven’t seen one of those before! There are still things to discover and we don’t know what those things look like quite yet, which is where artists come in. The image you see when you look up Psyche is a beautiful artistic rendition of what it may or may not look like. The only actual image we have to go off of is tiny, black and white, and very pixelated—you really can’t even tell the exact shape. But that image isn’t going to attract the public or get people interested. So I think art and design will be interconnected with space exploration for a long time to come.

Learn more about CCAD’s Animation program or apply today.