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JPL experiences brush with stardom, earning Emmy nod for Cassini coverage

JPL experiences brush with stardom, earning Emmy nod for Cassini coverage
A photo collage of images submitted by people in 40 nations and 30 U.S. states on July 19, 2013 as part of a Cassini mission "Wave at Saturn" event. The multimedia campaign was recently nominated for a 2018 Creative Arts Emmy award, officials announced. (Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

The Cassini mission — a 20-year effort by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to observe and understand Saturn — may have ended on Sept. 15, 2017 when the spacecraft was directed into the planet’s atmosphere, but the science and the fandom continue.

On July 12, JPL officials announced an interactive multimedia campaign rolled out over years and involving millions of space lovers across the globe had been nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy Award.

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Staff in JPL’s Media Relations department worked closely with the facility’s public engagement office to craft a campaign that would reach out to and captivate a wide audience with news, information and images from the Cassini mission.

“Every mission has its own personality, destination, science and people. Finding the uniqueness of each mission is always part of the challenge,” said Alice Wessen, head of JPL’s public engagement office. “With Cassini, all those beautiful images, and all the data it sent back provided an opportunity to really engage with the mission.”

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The effort was astounding and took well over a year but comprised regular updates on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the Cassini mission website. Q&A sessions among mission leaders, members of the media and the public at large were broadcast across social media, the Web and television channels.

Teachers were offered in-class instructional lessons developed through JPL’s Educator Resource Center, while the public had access to numerous short films, articles and a 360-degree livestream of a mission event from inside JPL’s own mission control.

“You could feel like you’re sitting in mission control, spin around in the chair and see everybody,” said JPL Media Relations Manager Veronica McGregor.

On July 19, 2013, the day the Cassini Huygens space probe turned to face Earth for the first time, some 1,600 fans and followers took selfies in a “Wave at Saturn” campaign — their efforts were made into photo collages of Earth and Saturn.

A “Cassini Inspires” campaign urged space enthusiasts to submit their own drawings, poems and artwork paying tribute to Saturn and the Cassini’s Huygens space probe, which was ultimately destroyed when its mission was finished to prevent Earth contamination of scientifically rich Saturnine moons.

Creative Arts Emmy awards honor outstanding artistic and technical achievement in a variety of genres, including outstanding original interactive program, for which the Cassini campaign was nominated. They will be presented during a ceremony at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater on Sept. 15 — the one-year anniversary of Cassini’s epic “death.”

“The night of the awards is the exact night of the end of the mission,” McGregor said. “Isn’t that funny?”

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