CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS


To conduct a scientific investigation of a distant celestial body from a moving spacecraft, especially one designed to image multiple bodies, all moving and consequently found in different locations at different times, on a mission that has 10 other investigations also wanting to do the same, can be a very complex and challenging affair.

The work of getting ready for our first observations of Saturn that would occur in early 2004 had begun to some extent many years before, in the mid-1990s, but accelerated in the fall of 2002. By that time, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), the central operations node for the Cassini Imaging experiment, was headquartered at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and the team grew substantially in size.

Tasks before us included building the essential elements of a ground operations system that would support both the creation and final uplink of commands to our onboard cameras, as well as the ingestion of the resulting imaging data from JPL into our database in CICLOPS. These elements included, for uplink, the software, protocols, procedures, and scripts for planning, executing, and checking our imaging sequence commands to ensure accuracy and that they didn't conflict with the instrument commands of other investigations, before shipping them to JPL. And, for downlink, along with ingestion into our database, scripts were written to navigate the resulting images in order to extract information that told imaging scientists, among other things, where exactly in space and on the target the image was pointed.

CICLOPS was also the team largely responsible for processing and captioning images for public consumption and releasing them to the public. During the first 6 or 7 years of the project, this was a daily occurrence, and was very much like running a news magazine. Wen there was something new and unexpected in an images -- and that was often -- image releases were often accompanied by press releases announcing the discovery. These also were written within CICLOPS.

Over the 15 years between 2002 and the end of the mission, members of the CICLOPS team came and went, but overall the team changed very little. Here are those stellar people who were there at the close of the mission, and whose exceptional skills, dazzling talent, and hard work and dedication brought the entire world that unprecedented and glorious visual record of our historic travels around Saturn.

Team members are, from left to right, back row: Bob West (Deputy Team Leader), Myron McCallum, Ben Knowles, Josh Riley, Carolyn Porco (Team Leader), Front row: Emily Baker, Nicole Martin, Colin Mitchell, Steve Mullins
Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, 2015
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Left to right: Ben Knowles, Myron McCallum, Carolyn Porco, Nicole Martin, Emily Baker, Steve Mullins
Cassini's Final Plunge, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, September 15, 2017

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Ben Knowles

Ben Knowles has been a member of of CICLOPS/ISS Ops since 2002. As Calibration Engineer, he performs the data reduction and image analysis required for calibrating the ISS cameras, and develops and maintains the ISS calibration files and software known as CISSCAL. As the ISS Archiving lead, he is responsible for archiving all ISS data with the Planetary Data System, including regular deliveries of images, metadata and camera pointing data, and periodic deliveries of cartographic maps, calibration software and support files. He authored the ISS PDS Data User's Guide (, a comprehensive handbook to the ISS instrument, its data, and the algorithms and methods necessary for its calibration. He also co-adminsters the ISS uplink database, assists ISS team members with observation planning and uplink, maintains the ISSPT camera commanding tool, which he helped to develop, and performs assorted image database processing tasks.

Ben lives in Fort Atkinson, WI with his wife Diana and their daughter Adelyn. In April of 2017 he was elected to the Fort Atkinson School Board, and now serves as its Treasurer. Much of his free time is spent playing guitar in one of several area bands, and at the weekly oldtime jam session. Whenever possible, he enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and photography. Recently he started organizing a community lecture series at the Fort Atkinson Club, a non-profit community center. He is the second- or third-biggest Beatles fan in ISS Ops.

Josh Riley

At Space Science Institute, I work on a team called "CICLOPS" that is responsible for operation of the ISS (Imaging Science Subsystem) instrument aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft which is exploring the Saturn system. CICLOPS is a small team, and I have several roles within the group: Downlink Operations Technical Lead, Software Developer, Image Sequencing Coordinator, Archiving Engineer, Image Processing and Multimedia Production, Website Administrator.

I grew up in Louisiana and went to school in Austin, TX from grade-school through college. I received an Electrical Engineering degree with a focus on Software Engineering from the University of Texas, and I've been doing computer programming ever since. I've worked in several different industries including video games, educational software, micro-devices, and, of course, space science.

Nicole Martin

Nicole worked on the Cassini imaging team for 14 years as a sequencer and Operations Team Lead. Her first task on Cassini was to design the approach movies of Saturn as it grew from fitting inside one field of view to 1x2's, then 1x3's, to then becoming the giant planet we would orbit for the next 13 years. She was responsible for implementing Saturn atmosphere observations and over the years also designed rings, Titan, and Enceladus observations. She joined the imaging team 2 years after receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley.

Nicole currently lives in Crested Butte, Colorado and in her spare time enjoys exploring her other favorite planet by bike, skis or horse.

Emily Baker

Emily Baker has been working for the Cassini imaging team for an unbelievable 13 years! Emily is responsible for sequence design and science planning, creating pointing and camera command instructions for the Cassini spacecraft based on the ISS scientists' observation plans. She can perhaps be forgiven for summing this up as "driving a spaceship" when asked what she does for a living; it's not stretching the truth too far! Emily has also, over the years, worked on image analysis, and science planning. Emily started working for CICLOPS after receiving an MS from the University of Colorado in 2004. She earned a BA from Carleton College in 2001.

Emily lives in San Antonio, TX, with her husband, daughter, and two cats in a 1920s bungalow. Luckily, she enjoys cooking and home DIY projects, as she plenty of opportunity for both when not working on Cassini!

Colin Mitchell

Colin is a Research Associate within CICLOPS working with Carolyn Porco on analyzing Cassini images of Saturn's B ring spokes and the Enceladus plume, as well as planning for Cassini's Solstice Mission. He is also engaged in simulating the trajectories of the particles in Enceladus's plume, including electromagnetic effects. Colin received his Bachelor's degree from Colorado State University in 1999 and his Doctorate from the University of Colorado in 2006.

John Weiss

John Moore-Weiss's is a scientists whose research focus on the dynamics of Saturn's rings at the scale of individual 1-meter ring particles and how collective behaviors between the particles lead to structures forming within the rings or evolution of the ring. He also is interested in the interaction between rings and the small moons that orbit in or near them ("moonlets"), what the orbital dynamics of particles leaving Enceladus can tell us about the source jets, as well as a variety of small (but amusing) physics problems. In addition, he likes to delve into the history of science and the experiments and reasoning used. He holds a PhD in Astrophysics from the Universe of Colorado at Boulder and a BA Physics and Math from Carleton College. He has taught at Saint Martin's University and Carleton College, although he currently works from his home in Eastern Washington.

Daiana DiNino

I was born and raised in Milan (Italy) and I have always dreamed of working as an astronomer, despite the challenges in looking up at the night sky from a big metropolis. For college, I followed the path of Galileo by studying at the University of Pisa, where I received a Bachelor and Master Degree in Physics and Astrophysics. There I met my husband Michele, also an astrophysicist, and started a journey to become a world citizen. After living for a few months in Japan, in 2005 we moved to Baltimore, MD, where I contributed to the Hubble Space Telescope mission, participating to both technical and science projects as a data analyst at the Space Telescope Science Institute. I then joined the Cassini mission in 2008 as an image analyst for the CICLOPS team at the Space Science Institute. While I continued to contribute to research, especially on the triangulation of Enceladus’s water jets, other achievements I am mostly proud of are all the images and mosaics I processed for public release. Cassini took amazing shots of the ringed world and its moons, and I felt very privileged for the opportunity to start from raw images and unveil their potential as majestic color shots. I currently live in Melbourne, Australia, and when not in the office, I like exploring new corners of this planet, hanging out with friends and playing strategy board games.

Steve Mullins

As a member of the CICLOPS team I have many different job duties from writing/editing captions, image processing, coordinating press releases, editing/managing web content for the CICLOPS site as well as travel planning and managing the budget. I grew up in Colorado and went to school at CU Boulder where I studied Biology. After a short stint at UCLA I found myself back in Boulder enjoying the mountains again. Joining the CICLOPS team has been an amazing opportunity and I have learned so much about the Saturnian system and space missions in general from the many gifted scientists I work with everyday.

When I am not at work I am usually satiating my hopeless addiction to climbing and fly fishing, spending most weekends exploring what Colorado and the West have to offer in terms of dirt, rivers, rocks and campgrounds.

Myron McCallum

Myron is the Senior Systems Administrator for the CICLOPS group. Keeping systems and networks operating 24x7 along with providing IT support for all CICLOPS team needs are primary responsibilities.

He has worked with advanced analog hand held computers since he was 11 when he got his first slide rule, and then moved to the electronic era at 14 when his high school physics teacher had a 300 baud dial up connection to the local university. His earliest electronic computer project was writing a lunar lander program in BASIC.

He's been a manager of computer systems in support of aerosol, aerospace and geophysics related research groups for most of his career, while squeezing in some start-up business support and consulting ranging from a private space exploration company to medical software database and dental-imaging companies. Stints as a software developer and database administrator led towards system administration, to try to make things easier for other computer users.

Hobbies include coaching youth hockey, playing adult hockey, nordic-skiing, road biking, hiking and fishing.