UCLA

100 Ways: Space

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Published May 15, 2019 11:35 AM


Stories on the L.A. River, clean air and the Skoll Center.


Stargazers and Explorers

UCLA in Space


Kelly Kosmo ’15 is a Ph.D. student and an astrophysics researcher in UCLA’s Galactic Center Group, led by astronomer Andrea Ghez. Kosmo’s first astronomy class at UCLA was taught by Ghez.

It's an impulse as old as humankind: to look up at the stars and wonder. Over the decades, UCLA’s faculty and alumni have translated wonder into action, exploring the cosmos as astrophysicists, engineers, astronauts and NASA mission scientists.

Professor Emerita Margaret Kivelson discovered an ocean under the icy crust of Europa. David Jewitt hunts comets; Jean-Luc Margot investigates the formation and evolution of habitable worlds; and Mark Morris studies the innermost regions of the Milky Way, as does Andrea Ghez, who proved the existence of a black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Over the decades, many UCLA faculty have worked on NASA missions, often as principal investigators. David Paige ’79’s Diviner was the first instrument to create detailed day and night surface temperature maps of the moon. Christopher Russell Ph.D. ’68’s DAWN mission explored two protoplanets, giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Ned Wright’s WISE mission scanned the entire sky, collecting data about asteroids, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies. Marco Velli’s Parker Solar Probe is now aloft with an expected timeline stretching to 2024. Space weather expert Vassilis Angelopoulos M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ’93 leads ARTEMIS and THEMIS and advises ELFIN, a student-run satellite project. ELFIN launched in September 2018, the first spacecraft built, managed and operated by UCLA. More than 250 students — most of them undergraduates — planned, fabricated, designed, assembled, tested and programmed the twin ELFIN microsatellites.


The first UCLA astronaut was engineer Elliot See Jr. M.S. ’60, who died in a plane crash while preparing for Gemini 9. The first Bruin in space was Walt Cunningham ’60, M.S. ’61, on Apollo 7. Vance Brand M.B.A. ’64 flew four missions, including the Apollo- Soyuz rendezvous with Russian cosmonauts. Story Musgrave M.B.A. ’59 took six trips into space and made three spacewalks. Anna Lee Fisher ’71, M.D. ’76, M.S. ’87 was the first mother in space; Taylor Wang ’67, M.S. ’68, Ph.D. ’71 was the first astronaut of Chinese- American descent. John Phillips M.S. ’84, Ph.D. ’87 flew three missions to the international space station. Megan McArthur ’93 was part of the Hubble repair mission. Using robotic arms, she was the last to “touch” the revolutionary space telescope. UCLA’s newest astronaut is trainee Jessica Watkins Ph.D. ’15, who specialized in planetary geology.

From the prototype space suits of the 1950s to the ELFIN satellite orbiting the earth, UCLA has a proud history of space exploration. To be continued!


Catalyst for Community

Ethnic Music

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music creates community through the preservation and creation of ethnic music. Vinyl records fill the aisles of the newly renovated Ethnomusicology Archive, which holds more than 150,000 audio, video, print and photographic items, documenting all world musical expressions. Among them, three genres in particular have created community:

Gospel The archive includes original music from L.A.’s gospel era, which is “underappreciated and unrecognized,” says Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje M.A. ’72, Ph.D. ’78, former chair of the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology.

In the early ’90s, Vicki Lataillade ’80 started the GospoCentric label and signed Kirk Franklin, who tore up the charts with the hit single “Why We Sing.” As the genre began to merge with hip-hop and R&B, the music and its message brought people together.

Mariachi “UCLA definitely played a role in elevating mariachi music,” says Daniel Sheehy ’70, M.A. ’74, Ph.D. ’79, an early member of Uclatlán, the UCLA student group dedicated to the performance of traditional Mexican music. Sheehy and others found a personal connection in mariachi, which hadn’t yet been widely adopted in the States. Their dedication brought together countless Mexican Americans eager to connect with their heritage.

Sheehy produced concerts and albums, awarding grants and authoring the 2006 book Mariachi Music in America.

Jazz In 1951, UCLA became the nation’s first major institution to offer credit for the study of jazz history. Today, the university offers an array of programs, including the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance.

“Our global jazz studies program is a critical step in building cultural bridges and providing students with an international perspective rooted in U.S. history,” says Professor Steve Loza M.A. ’79, Ph.D. ’85, the program’s chair.


Sergio Alonso ’99 says that a UCLA class inspired him to embrace mariachi music — and changed his career path. Alonso performed with the student group Mariachi UCLA and played occasional gigs with Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Los Camperos.

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