Toronto man's hobby website on Apollo 17 lands him job at NASA
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2019 2:45PM EDT
With more than 300 hours of audio, 22 hours of video, and 4,000 photos, a Toronto man’s hobby website dedicated to recreating the last mission to the moon in real time has landed him a dream job at NASA.
While other people come home from work to relax, Ben Feist would leave his job at an advertising agency at the end of the day to sift through hours of audio recordings, videos, and transcripts from the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in 1972.
Unlike other missions, the information from Apollo 17 was disorganized and neglected when Feist stumbled upon it roughly eight years ago.
"The historical record of Apollo 17… wasn’t very well documented because they weren’t going back anytime soon so when they were doing the packaging up of the mission at the end of it, they didn’t put the same amount of effort in that as they did for the previous missions,” he explained to CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
In an effort to “complete part of history,” Feist set about matching the various audio recordings, video clips, and transcripts to create a minute-by-minute recreation of the 12-day mission.
Six years later, Feist’s labour of love was complete and the Apollo17.org website was launched.
It wasn’t long before Feist received an unexpected call from someone at NASA who complimented the website and invited him to give a talk about his work at the Goddard Space Flight Center, located just north of Washington, D.C.
“It was pretty amazing,” Feist recalled. “I thought what a great end to all of this. I can put the cherry on the cake and go tell them about what I’m doing and move on and do something else.”
NASA, however, had other plans for him.
“They said ‘We think you may have inadvertently solved a problem that NASA has been trying to solve for a very long time and that’s how to organize our space flight data so that it can be easily navigated,’” Feist said.
“I essentially said to them ‘I’m really happy to hear you’re going to do something with this idea and the work that I’ve been doing’ and they said ‘We’re not going to do something. You are.’”
Feist was given a series of projects to work on before he was offered a full-time position at the famed space agency. Now, he’s been officially working at NASA for approximately two years.
“It was really remarkable. To have my photo next to the NASA meatball is really something else. It hasn’t worn off,” he said.
Feist’s work will help inform future space missions on data management and how to present collected information in a digestible way.
“It’s super fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of really exciting work to do because we’re going back to the moon by 2024.”