Who is David Grinspoon?
This is me with Lt. Uhura..
(a biography of david grinspoon based off of an interview between David Grinspoon and Julia DeMarines)
David Grinspoon is Curator of Astrobiology in the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) and Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado. An internationally known Planetary Scientist funded by NASA to study the evolution of Earth-like planets elsewhere in the universe, Dr. Grinspoon serves as an advisor to NASA on space exploration strategy. He in involved with many space missions, engages in outreach and education, is a trained suborbital astronaut, has written two and a half books, has been published widely, is an avid musician and has an affinity for cats. Let’s take a journey through the inner workings of Dr. David Grinspoon to put him under the microscope… or in David’s case… under the telescope!
David is involved with a number of current and future space missions. His current mission involvement includes the Venus Express (where he serves as an interdisciplinary scientist through the European Space Agency), the Mars Science Lab (MSL) (where he serves on the science team) and the proposed Surface and Atmospheric Geochemical Explorer (SAGE) a new Venus lander (where he will also serve on the science team). Dr. Grinspoon serves as the co–investigator of the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s (NAI) Titan Team and studies the organic chemistry on Titan and it’s implications for origin and evolution for life in the universe. In David’s own words he finds that “Titan is particularly interesting because of the fact that it’s so earth-like in so many ways even though it’s freakishly alien which is an odd combination of the familiar and the deeply exotic”.
(David at work)
David jokes that his responsibility in being the curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) is maintaining alien corpses but actually his tasks include a combination of research on planetary science and Astrobiology as well as a wide range of education and outreach activities. These activities range from lecturing to presenting at planetarium shows (even playing music at planetarium shows!) and assisting with exhibits. David thoroughly enjoys his work at the DMNS because of, as he states “the fact that I can make a living thinking about and talking about the biggest and most fascinating mystery of all [life in the Universe] and finding ways to apply science to getting closer to the answers”.
(David and science)
I was curious as to how David got to the point that he was today, as a household name in Astrobiology (not to mention Denver’s sexiest Astrobiologist!). He reported that it began as a youth growing up with the Apollo program, and actually seeing people land on the moon. The first generation planetary exploration missions were happening during his formative years and he was also influenced by viewing the first close up images of all the planets as a youth. “After that I started reading science fiction and became totally obsessed between 4th grade up until high school”. Science fiction fed his imagination and to this day David is still an obsessive science fiction fan and. “The combination of the cool new science emerging when I was a kid and the science fiction that was going on in my mind, I knew I wanted to be a scientist form about the time I was 12”. Grinspoon holds degrees in Philosophy of Science and Planetary Science from Brown University and a doctorate in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona. He currently lives in Washington, DC.
When one looks in to David’s brain, a sense of humor, a dedicated background in the sciences and diverse and a keen knowledge on various subjects in Astrobiology have coalesced into a mind filled with so much knowledge that some of it spilled over in the form of two and a half highly engaging and informative books, Venus Revealed and Lonely planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life. His first book, Venus Revealed, (Perseus Books, 1998) was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. His second book, Lonely Planets won the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Research Nonfiction. David is also co-author of The Planet Venus with Mikail Ya. Marov. In addition to his books his popular writing has appeared in Slate, Scientific American, Natural History, The Sciences, Seed, Nature, Astronomy, the Boston Globe, LA Times and the New York Times. David informed me that he plans on writing a new book, but if he disclosed the topic of his book he would have to kill me (gulps). Dr. Grinspoon has been featured on numerous television (PBS’s Life Beyond Earth; BBC’s The Planets) and radio (NPR’s Science Fridays, Wisconsin Public Radio, BBC World Service, History Channel’s The Universe) shows. He has given invited talks at international conferences throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia. David notes his scientific and literary inspirations include Harlow Shapley, Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, Philip Morrison, Iosoff Sklovskii and the works of Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Stanislaw Lem and Lewis Thomas.
(David the Astronaut)
On top of reading and writing books David was also selected to be trained as a sub-orbital astronaut and a member of the Suborbital Applications Research Group. He completed his training on the 13th of January 2010! “The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) is a coordination and advisory committee of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, composed of scientists and researchers dedicated to furthering the scientific potential of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under development by the commercial spaceflight sector.” (SpaceRef.com)
(David the renaissance man)
You could say Dr. Grinspoon is somewhat of a Renaissance man (and when I say somewhat… I mean utterly and completely). The American Astronomical Society awarded him the 2006 Carl Sagan Medal for excellence in public communication of planetary science. Because David wasn’t satisfied with only being in the most diverse, broad-range subjects of sciences, a certified sub-orbital scientist as well as conducting research, education AND public outreach, he has to play music to keep from getting bored (psssha!). David is an award-winning musician and has a real passion for music. He currently jams out to this day and you can even catch him playing at the DMNS while learning about the history of the Universe! “I am currently in a band called the House Band of the Universe which is an off shoot of previous bands put together specifically for the ‘Life Out There’ shows.” This band includes FOUR members of the Perry Weissman Three and he describes this music as being “groove based jazzy spacey afro pop”.
(David and music)
David is well practiced in the art of the guitar, samples and electric percussion. Being the nosey assistant that I am, I was interested in the history of David’s musical upbringing. How did he manage to fit the art of music into his already jam packed life? Please tell us David! “My first instrument was violin when I was 6-10, then I rebelled and took up the guitar, got my first electric guitar when I was 13 and played in rock bands in jr/sr high. In college I was in a band called The Geek’s (invented common use of the word geek independently). In grad school in Arizona I played with a bunch of reggae bands, when I finished grad school I went to Zimbabwe and played with a band there and got really into african music and played with a couple African based bands in Colorado. Now I just jam with a couple people and do House Band of the Universe.” His musical inspirations include (but are not limited to): Bob Marley, The Greatful Dead, Blackalicious, Gift of Gab, Thomas Mapfumo, John Coltrain, Los Lobos, Madona, Ricky Lee Jones, Sinead O’Connor, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Black Eyed Peas, Counting Crows and Peter Tosh. Today David is listening to underground hip hop and alt country.
(David the human)
Outside of music and science what kind of guy is David Grinspoon? I wanted to know the quirks behind the multi-talented brain. If David were stuck on a deserted island and could only eat one thing it would be artichokes and lemon butter. During his free time (David has free time?) he enjoys music (playing and listening), hiking and hanging out with friends. My favorite part of this interview is learning David’s favorite color, blurple! David’s favorite numbers are the golden mean (1.618…) and Euler’s’ Number (2.718…) and he can count to 1023 on his fingers in binary. Also, he is obsessed with cats but currently doesn’t own any.
Rock on Dr. Grinspoon… ROCK. ON.