NASA hosted a special guest last month, and you just may have seen him on television last night talking about it!
The name "Bashir Salahuddin" may not ring any bells with you (nope, it's not the doctor from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"), but fans of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" will recognize him as "Milky J," whose "Hubble Gotchu!" sketches have showcased the famous telescope's magnificent images.
What's that you say? You haven't seen the clips? Then enjoy the sampling below!
After the videos aired Lynn Chandler gave the Jimmy Fallon crew a call. Lynn works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as the public affairs officer for the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's successor to the Hubble.
When the full-size Webb model traveled to New York at the beginning of June, she suggested Bashir meet up there with NASA's first civil servant Nobel Prize laureate Dr. John Mather to discuss Hubble and Webb, of which Dr. Mather is the senior project scientist. The visit there went so well that Bashir (as Milky J) decided to take a trip to Goddard to film another segment.
The video resulting from that trip in late July aired last night -- but in case you missed it ...
Let it not be said that NASA folks lack a sense of humor! Milky J's Hubble fanaticism may be mostly just for laughs, but Bashir, who also writes for "Late Night," has a genuine interest in space science. "Hubble Gotchu!" carries that science to new audiences, which is one reason why we loved helping put this video together.
And putting it together took a mountain of effort, both from the Goddard family and from the "Late Night" team. On our end, weeks of preparations and permissions went into making sure Bashir could film in all the "cool" spots. (Lynn and Mike McClare, Goddard's Hubble and Webb video producer extraordinaire, deserve some serious high-fives for getting that all taken care of.)
Some of the "Late Night" crew, headed by director Michael Blieden, took the train down from New York on July 21 to scope Goddard for places to shoot. Andy Freeberg, a Goddard producer who helped guide the team, said they were just blown away by all the stuff going on here.
The morning of the 22nd came, and the rest of the crew arrived for a full day of shooting. The schedule was jam-packed, moving from the testing chambers to the NASA Communications center (Nascom), to the clean room, to the Goddard TV studio. Goddard never seems quite as big as it does when you're lugging video equipment on a hot day!
The Jimmy Fallon crew was a pleasure to work with. Despite the fast-paced schedule Bashir, Michael and the rest of the team took the time to chat with the Goddard spectators who stopped by to see what was going on. Bashir is soft-spoken in comparison to his Milky J alter ego, and a true professional; he had all his dialogue memorized ahead of time.
Filming became a special treat for a school tour group that happened to meander by as the team shot in Nascom. They likely thought it strange that a telescope operator could be such a messy eater. Optical Physicist and "rib-eater" Brent Bos deserves special praise for that performance. He had just completed media training the day before -- and slathering on barbecue sauce before the big interview was definitely not one of the topics covered! Brent managed to keep the sauce confined to his face and fingers through multiple takes, a miraculous feat, as any rib fan knows. (The ribs appeared courtesy of Lynn Chandler's kitchen.)
As Milky J would put it, "Whatever celestial images you need, Hubble gotchu!" When it comes to Hubble and James Webb, NASA gotchu, too.
If you want to learn more about superheated exoplanet HD 209458b, take a look at NASA's Hubble website.
Thanks to Webb blogger Maggie Masetti for filling in some of the details of the day! Read her blog posting here.
Brent poses with Milky J's letters, now flavored with tangy rib sauce. (Image courtesy Maggie Masetti) › Larger image
Milky J poses in his homemade spacesuit. (Image courtesy Maggie Masetti) › Larger image
Milky J interviewed Paul Geithner, Webb's observatory manager, at the end of the day in Goddard's TV studio. (Image courtesy Andy Freeberg) › Larger image
Milky J (center) poses with members of the Webb team. From left to right: Phil Driggers, Katie Lilly, Milky J, Mike Menzel, Amber Straughn, Ray Lundquist. Mike is demonstrating his "JW" hand sign. (Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn) › Larger image