Charley Kohlhase’s Solar System

The images that awed Voyager’s mission designer

(Courtesy Charley Kohlhase)

In the 1970s and 1980s, Charley Kohlhase led the mission design team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that selected the best flight paths for Voyagers 1 and 2 and chose the aiming points at each outer planet to return the best science. He also created, with Jim Blinn, the first computer-graphic flyby animations for each encounter. Kohlhase, who spent 40 years at NASA and received the agency’s Distinguished Service Medal, also found time to write the JPL “Travel Guides” given to the press before the Uranus and Neptune encounters, and has an asteroid (13801 Kohlhase) named in his honor. An exhibited photographer, digital artist, published author, and environmentalist, Kohlhase still oversees studies and design activities for several space missions. He lives in Pasadena, California, and has two daughters and three grandchildren. Air & Space asked him to recall a few of his favorite Voyager images. See the gallery above for his selection.

Pictured above: Kohlhase has always dreamed about the future, whether reading science fiction or designing missions for NASA. So it comes as no surprise to find him using 3D software and his artistic talents to create pictures of future journeys to other worlds. In this scene titled “Outpost,” rendered on his computer at home in Pasadena, an advanced manned spaceship is shown approaching a remote facility on a distant water world.

Voyager 1: Io and Europa


Kohlhase comments: “When Voyager 1 returned this photo in late February 1979 of the two inner Galilean moons Io and Europa, I was struck with the sudden awareness and excitement that every day we would see more and more of these planet-sized worlds as the spacecraft neared Jupiter. They were beautiful and happily unlike Earth’s dull gray, cratered moon. I could hardly wait for the close-up photos of their unusual surfaces.”


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus