Mars Mic’d – Jason Achilles

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The unlikely or perhaps a very likely combination of music and working with sound in space. Everything is absolutely relative and that certainly is the case with Jason Achilles. But how did this musician in particular begin his journey to working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory?

Following an early 2022 US tour as keyboardist for Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, JASON ACHILLES now divides his time as a touring multi-instrumentalist/music producer, orchestral composer, and “side gig” as an aerospace entrepreneur. Currently, he is traveling doing speaking and performance engagements and is working on a Planetarium show that will inspire the public through an unlikely personal journey from music to Space.

Of special significance, his orchestral piece will be performed at Carnegie Hall in April.

In 2017 Jason leveraged his audio expertise into technical consulting with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ultimately helping bring to Earth the first sounds of the planet Mars as recorded by the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Ironically, he pursued the powers that be via old school telephone cold calls and hundreds of emails until he finally got through. Never give up and never say never. He often mentions this at his speaking engagements to students.

What would be his job description?

Hired in 2017 by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an Independent Consultant for the EDLCAM microphone, to assist in selection of flight hardware for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission which ultimately captured the first sounds of Mars on Sol 2 (Feb 20th, 2021). Since then I have worked as a consultant for various companies, most recently Rogue Space Systems, and have led development through NASA grant funding of a remotely deployable lunar payload called ExoCam, that will one day capture video descent of a lander to the surface of the Moon.

pictured (L-R) Jason Achilles, NASA/JPL ATLO Manager David Gruel, Audio Design Consultant Caesar Garcia - photo by Justin Maki - NASA/JPL

When not on the road performing live with his experimental ‘cosmic space-rock’ duo, he can be frequently spotted with his nerd-friends attempting to capture high-fidelity audio from the numerous rocket launches at Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California (and not have their microphones incinerated).

Jason is also very active in giving back to the science and astronomy community with a monthly even entitled Astronomy on Tap.

Astronomy on Tap is a global phenomenon where professional astronomers give informal science talks in local bars with accompanying pub trivia and interactions with the public. Scientists at Caltech organize the Los Angeles chapter of Astronomy on Tap hosting speakers from many LA-based institutions: Carnegie ObservatoriesThe Planetary Society, the Jet Propulsion LaboratoryUCLAGriffith Observatory, and more.

Each event consists of two 20-minute talks on some aspect of astronomy/astrophysics with broad appeal. We answer questions from the audience after each talk, host astronomically-themed pub trivia with cool prizes, and have professional astronomers on hand to discuss space science with interested audience members. When conditions permit, they also provide guided stargazing with telescopes. In addition, ot is often accompanied by local rock legends, Jason Achilles and Forrest Mitchell, who play rock music in between talks.

For more info on Jason and his exceptional career follow him on Social Media as well as all of the info here:

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