L'Team - Featuring David Dezell Turner

Feb 23, 2021

While a robot may be the one visiting the Trojan asteroids, people are responsible for getting it there. In L’Team we meet some of the people that make Lucy Mission possible.

David Dezell Turner, Lucy Mission 2020 Intern and Asteroid Ambassador.

What roles have you had on the Lucy team? I worked as an Outreach Intern for the Lucy Mission during the summer of 2020, and I am currently a volunteer Lucy Asteroid Ambassador. For both roles, I have had the opportunity to teach the public about the ins and outs of the mission by writing articles, filming videos, and creating art. I also wrote the fact sheets for the spacecraft’s instruments.

Describe the path you’ve taken to get here. My childhood obsession with space led me to MIT, where I am currently studying aerospace engineering. During my freshman year, I found a Facebook post about NASA’s L’SPACE Academy, and I decided to sign up. It proved to be a great decision! I learned a lot about systems engineering, proposal writing, and working on a team, and I loved it so much that I participated in the next level as well. While working on the next level, the L’SPACE Administrators announced that anyone who participated in one of the Academies would be eligible to apply for their new program — the Lucy Asteroid Ambassadors. Before we even had our first Ambassador training session, I began working on a video to show the administrators the kind of content I might want to make. In the video, I used time-lapses of my Etch-A-Sketch drawings to explain the basics of the mission. I continued making videos and eventually wrote my first article for the mission. I had the chance to write several more articles for my Outreach Internship this past summer.

The Virtual Lucy Science Team Meeting in June, 2020.

What has been your most gratifying accomplishment related to Lucy? Probably writing “The Mind-Bogglingly Big Journey Ahead” article for the website. I really enjoyed breaking down the astronomical distances Lucy will traverse, and it was incredible learning about the intricacies of planning flyby sequences. I also did not expect that writing an article would require me to write snippets of Python code to extract the relevant numbers from the mission’s SPICE kernels, but I had a great time doing it!

Tell us about a Lucy challenge you overcame and how you did so. L’Ralph was definitely the most difficult instrument to write about. L’Ralph is two instruments in one — MVIC (a color visible imager), and LEISA (an infrared spectrometer). I had already had a great conversation with Dennis Reuter and Amy Simon (Instrument Principal Investigator and Deputy Principal Investigator, respectively) about the instrument, and I read publication after publication about it as well. I thought I understood it, but as soon as I sat down to write, I realized I had even more questions. How does time-delay integration work? Why are phyllosilicates important? Once I finally understand this stuff, how do I go about explaining it? Thankfully, Katherine Kretke gave me some great explanations and feedback, and I was able to complete the fact sheet for the website. Who is your biggest role model or someone who has influenced you greatly? Emily Graslie is one of my favorite science communicators. I’ve always aspired to explain aerospace engineering and planetary science as well as she does natural history.

How has Lucy shaped or impacted your plans for the future? And what’s next? Having the opportunity to talk to people working on a variety of different aspects of a NASA mission has shown me just how many different disciplines need to work together smoothly to ensure mission success. That’s what excites me most about aerospace, and I plan to keep pursuing more opportunities that bring me closer to the nexus of these disciplines. For that reason, I want to pursue a career in systems engineering, and I’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the field this summer during an internship through the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program.

Cake or pie? Choose carefully. There is a right answer. I feel like pies are more consistent in quality than cakes. People tend not to just bake a pie if they don’t know what they’re doing, right? That said, a well-made cake with buttercream frosting can end this confectionary clash before it even commences. And if you add ice cream… I think I’ll take the risk and go with cake.

What’s your favorite space movie? Guardians of the Galaxy. But only just slightly above Empire Strikes Back