Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “On A Mission” NASA | JPL

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony honored exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

In this edition of Open Mic, the spotlight is on the Gold and Silver award-winning entry “On a Mission, ”a new podcast from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This first season followed the InSight mission as it flew to Mars. Over eight episodes, listeners heard the stories of the scientists and become involved in the drama of a mission to outer space.

Leslie Mullen, Producer/Host, NASA|Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Open Mic spent a few minutes with Leslie Mullen, Producer/Host with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to learn more about the inspiration behind this award-winning program. In the interview below Leslie shares her creative process and the biggest challenge she encountered when producing the podcast as well as what’s on the horizon with the series.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “On A Mission” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Leslie Mullen: Some of my favorite podcasts are well-crafted narrated stories, so I wanted to create a similar type of podcast for NASA. Each episode of “On a Mission” is like a chapter in a larger story about a mission to outer space. The characters in this story are scientists and engineers whose lives have intersected with the mission in interesting ways.  I hope listeners following the story become so absorbed in it, they feel like they’re part of the mission too.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Leslie Mullen: First, I talked with many people: scientists, engineers, and professional storytellers and performers. I took what I learned from them and combined that with a ton of research to write the stories. The biggest challenge was getting a brand-new podcast off the ground – beyond the episodes, you also have to create a web page, set up distribution on different platforms, and handle a million other details. It couldn’t have happened without the support of many folks at JPL and NASA.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Leslie Mullen: There are so many podcasters whose work I deeply admire, as well as filmmakers, authors, artists, and musicians. But perhaps the biggest influence are the scientists and engineers – I’m inspired by their passion for their work, and how adventurous, thoughtful, creative and generous they all are.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Leslie Mullen:

  • There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts and radio shows out there. Figure out how to make yours unique.
  • Learn how to edit audio yourself, rather than always relying on someone else to edit for you. This will help you develop a better understanding of what’s needed to put a show together.
  • Always read scripts out loud before recording. Often what seems to work on the page doesn’t sound natural when spoken.

At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the gantry rolls back at Space Launch Complex 3 in preparation for the liftoff of NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, Mars lander. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket now is poised to boost the spacecraft with liftoff scheduled for 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT). InSight will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface. It will study the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listen for marsquakes. InSight will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars’ formation will provide a better understanding of how other rocky planets, including Earth, were created.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team? 

Leslie Mullen: We’re putting together a bonus episode for Season 1, to review what’s happened since the InSight mission landed on Mars.  Season 2 of the “On a Mission” podcast will be focused on a whole new topic, and we plan for that season to start airing this Fall.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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