Cartoonist's creations explain space concepts in a fun way

Jarrod Chua's works caught the attention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Even far-away American space agency Nasa has spotted Singaporean Jarrod Chua's talent on its radar.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 23-year-old has been creating animations and comics to explain concepts and phenomena related to space in a simple and entertaining way.

His works, put up on his Instagram page @spaceytales, caught the attention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in 2020.

He worked with the agency to modify his comic about the James Webb Space Telescope into a postcard. Nasa paid him $1,000.

Recently, local organisations such as Singapore Space and Technology and Nanyang Technological University's Satellite Research Centre have reached out to Mr Chua.

The Straits Times speaks to the digital communications and integrated media undergraduate at the Singapore Institute of Technology about his creative process and interest in the cosmos.

What got you interested in space and art?

Since I was young, my mum would take me to the library, and I gravitated towards books about space. The first children's book I read was about dinosaurs going on space explorations.

Since I was in kindergarten, I have been doodling on sketchbooks and whiteboards. In Singapore Polytechnic, I took a module on graphic design, and that was when I thought of combining my skills and passion to create space-related comics.

How do you translate space-related developments and concepts into infotainment-style animations?

I will find an interesting space article from Nasa's website, Space.com, or credible sites, and will think about how I can relate it to the public. I will conceptualise the comic by thinking about a fun or quirky storyline, and my characters - which could be the planets, Sun or Moon.

I always attach a narrative or story within the concept I want to communicate, so that the audience will have something to follow instead of having a bunch of information thrown at them.

It takes about four to five hours to finish a comic, from conceptualisation.

Mr Jarrod Chua's comic that explains earth observation satellites. PHOTO: SPACEYTALES

I take inspiration from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I watch his podcast called StarTalk, where he translates very complicated space information into a bite-size manner. I love how he is a great storyteller.

I try to model my comics after his methods.

Spaceytales is not a science dictionary or a scientific paper. My purpose is to spark some interest about topics such as orbital debris or satellites, and hopefully, my viewers will do further research and be better informed about astrophysics.

What are your future plans in the area of space communication?

I am thinking of ways to build and develop Spaceytales into a space education brand, by creating merchandise such as plush toys, posters and keychains.

I also hope to publish a children's book soon, and some local publishing houses have contacted me.

I have also received some e-mails from venture capitalists who said they see potential in monetising my brand and turning it into a cartoon series, for instance.

What are some of the current and future space developments that intrigue you?

Tesla chief executive and SpaceX founder Elon Musk talks about bringing humans to space, to Mars, and I am quite interested in what he has to offer our species as a whole.

He is pioneering a lot of new technology for the space industry, and I think it will help to lead the next generation to look up at the stars and dream of being a spacefaring civilisation.

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