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WATCH: The musician turned Mars pioneer

Jason is the most interesting guy you've never heard of. Watch his spotlight video to learn about how he made the shift from musician to space pioneer. It's a story about hard work, following your heart, and the power of symbols.
September 22, 2022 · 4 min read

The heart wants what it wants

What do you do if you reach a moment in life where you’re called to something greater? Would you answer?

Most might not even have the capacity to recognize or accept such a challenge. Jason’s is a story about what happens when you do. In our latest video spotlight, we capture the unlikely journey of Jason Achilles as he makes the shift from musician to space pioneer.

In the process, he shows us that following your heart can lead to extraordinary, sometimes even otherworldly, consequences.

Musician turned space pioneer

Jason Achilles is a Los Angeles based musician and producer. Over the years he’s worked his way through his fair share of bands, as well as produced both for himself and other well known acts. He’s also composed and performed pieces of orchestral music. It’s safe to say when it comes to music, Jason has quite literally done it all. But Space..that’s an entirely different story.

It all started in 2016. Jason was having drinks with a friend who worked in robotics at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The question was brought up; would it be possible to mount a microphone on the upcoming perseverance lander to capture the aural drama which would accompany NASA’s video feed? The timing was impeccable.

It turns out that NASA was already considering how to capture sound from Mars. Not only would it be cool to have sound accompany video of the Perseverance lander touching down on the Red planet, but it would also help the agency learn more about how sound travels there.

Who better to help them understand the instrumentation needed to record sound on Mars than a sound engineer? Well, they would eventually come to realize this, but would take Jason many late nights, long months, and cold emails.


Call it gut instinct, following your heart, or destiny, but Jason felt that the job of placing a microphone on the Perseverance lander was his to lose. He found an online directory and began sending cold proposals to the folks at NASA. While on the North American leg of the tour promoting his first solo release, he got the call from a high ranking official at NASA; the job was his. Jason’s unrelenting determination, and feel for the moment, would lead to an extraordinary series of events.

Watch the video for the full story.. Spoiler alert; you’ll love his story and will also hear amazing sounds from Mars! An added bonus is that you’ll see rockets, sensors and other cool engineering at work

Below are just a couple quick thoughts about what I learned from this story...

The new space economy is happening

While it is true that space is still incredibly hard, companies like SpaceX have brought down barriers to entry. It’s easier to get things into space, which means the next generation of space entrepreneurs will work out how to create value once you get there. Hence a thriving economy in space is sure to come at some point.

Today we have three converging factors that will increase the scope and pace at which we push into space; easier access to space for private companies, competition (Russia & China), and an active NASA. Competition catalyzed the last space race, there’s no reason to think the same can’t be true of this one. NASA also has big plans with the Artemis project. The stated long-term objective is to establish a permanent presence on the moon. This will require infrastructure, resources and a lot of innovation.

What’s great about today’s version of NASA is that they are embracing private enterprise to help fuel innovation. One way is by creating funding opportunities for small, nimble upstarts like Jason’s company (Zandef Deksit Inc.). Essentially they are fueling experimentation, which will lead to innovation, and hopefully breakthroughs that help us get to the moon and Mars faster.

Diversity of skills and experiences in 21st Century Work

I think Jason’s story demonstrates a revolutionary shift in the nature of the work that we will see in this century. Yes, it takes a special person to be able to transition from music to a career in space, but today skills, technologies and domains of work will increasingly overlap. Not so long ago the idea of recording sounds on Mars would have seemed ridiculous, but here we are. Nobody had done it before, so a musician was as good an option as anyone to figure it out.

Who knows what other skills will be in-demand in space or other emerging industries going forward. One thing is certain; we will need diversity, both in terms of background and experience, to thrive in the uncertain future.

Symbol of Hope

I hope this story inspires others to follow their intuition and passion. If Jason’s story shows anything it’s that you don’t need to be intimidated by being an outsider; sometimes this is exactly what an organization or mission needs in order to unleash creativity and innovation. If you trust your gut and follow your curiosity, not even the sky's the limit.