Star Bound: An Uncle and Nephew With Stars in Their Eyes

Joey Jefferson, a Mission Operations Engineer at NASA, talks with his outer space-obsessed six-year-old nephew Jerry Morrison. Together they explore why space is so fascinating, where they would live if they could choose another planet, and how much more we have to discover. As Joey says, “my hope is that you are always going to be doing and learning about the things that you love the most.”


Joey Jefferson (JJ): Why do you like space so much?

Jerry Morrison (JM): Uh, there are many sights to see: nebulas, hot Jupiters, and supernova remnants.

JJ: Yeah.

JM: They look so beautiful.

JJ: You know how I fell in love with space? My mom gave me a cool space shuttle. You would wind it back, and then…

JM: Oh, I have that!

JJ: You have that?! So, I remember playing with that all the time, and I wanted to become a pilot. I used to fly a plane when I was 17 years old. And then, after that, I started commanding spacecraft at NASA.

JM: Have you ever been to space?

JJ: I have not been to space, but it’s a dream of mine.

JM: I want to live on another planet.

JJ: Another planet?

JM: Like, what kind of planet would you live on?

JJ: (Sighs) Of course, everybody’s going to say, Mars, right? Are you ‘going to say, Mars?

JM: No. Kepler-452b.

JJ: Oh, yeah. So Kepler-452b is your favorite planet. Do you know what we call those?

JM: Exoplanets…

JJ: And there’s; actually, we estimate to be trillions of galaxies out there. So there are a lot of stars and a lot of exoplanets that we got to find. And so we need people like you to keep doing what you’re doing. And it’s one thing to get to this place where you know all this knowledge, but it’s another thing to teach knowledge.

JM: Yeah.

JJ: So, you were in kindergarten, and you taught the fifth graders, right?

JM: Yeah.

JJ: How did you like that?

JM: It was a big opportunity for me. I, like, taught all the planets… It was awesome.

JJ: (Laughs) How do you feel when we visit each other, and we get to talk about space?

JM: It feels good. I learned from you a lot, like more than I could imagine.

JJ: You’re my favorite person to talk about space to. You know that?

JM: Yeah.

JJ: And you’re learning so much by yourself too, that you’re teaching me as well.

JM: Ha-ha…!

JJ: And that’s really cool. The more you learn, the more we realize the little things in life we take for granted are the very things that make life possible. So when I look up at the stars, I think about that.

JM: That is pretty cool.

JJ: My hope is that you will always be doing and learning about the things that you love the most. You can do whatever you want…but in the future, I think you’re going to go to Kepler 452b.

Ali Kaya


Ali Kaya

This is Ali. Bespectacled and mustachioed father, math blogger, and soccer player. I also do consult for global math and science startups.

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