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The Spacecraft Tarot - Creator Interview

Thalia is a science writer by day, fire dancer by night. During mornings and afternoons (and yes, many weekends) Thalia strategizes communications for NASA. When the sun sets, Thalia puts together elaborate circus performances under the stage name Tippy Ki Yay. And in the little bit of spare time in between, she works on her latest project: The Spacecraft Tarot.

Kickstarter: The Spacecraft Tarot

Deck Story

Spacecraft have always fascinated me. We send them out into the universe to be our eyes and our ears across unfathomable distances, and in the process, they take on personalities of their own. They are like little curious adventurers, exploring their surroundings and collecting stimuli. Like us, they experience hardships, suffer defeat, and celebrate victories.

To overcome my own obstacles in life, I frequently use tarot as a tool for self-reflection. I believe that universally-known symbols — such as the fool, the lovers, the star — help us frame our situations and connect more closely with each other.

My interests in spacecraft and tarot have always run parallel — until eventually, they collided!

• Share a little about yourself

Where do you rest your head at night?

My artist name is Tippy Ki Yay. I define myself as a science writer by day, fire dancer by night. By day, I strategize communications for NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. By night, I put together elaborate fire dancing and circus acrobatic performances and workshops across the country (and even the world!) And in the wee bit of free time in between, I work on the Spacecraft Tarot!

• What was your first ever Tarot deck and how did you come to own/use it?

My partner gave me my first Tarot deck — the Osho Zen deck — over ten years ago. I quickly started integrating it into my meditation practice and using it as a tool of self-reflection.

• Why Tarot?

What about this modality calls to you most?

Tarot is powerful. The symbols and the images on the cards evoke meaning, no matter who you are or what background you have. I treat Tarot more as a research test than anything else — what you see in the cards reveals more about you than the cards themselves. I see Tarot as a tool for creating a star map of your own consciousness, and allowing that star map to guide your path in life.

• What is/was your most recent Tarot project?

The Spacecraft Tarot is both my first and most recent tarot project!

• Tell us about the cards: the technical and specifics?

The Spacecraft Tarot includes the Major Arcana (22 cards) plus one instructional card. The deck is loosely based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

• Can you share a little on the process of your deck and its creation?

For each card, I hand-painted an original illustration that portrays a different spacecraft. I also wrote an essay on each of the cards explaining the significance and the history of the spacecraft. Finding time between my job, my schooling, and my hobbies was extremely difficult — but I stuck with the project and am very proud that I finished it!

• What decisions were made when deciding upon the aesthetic and design for your deck?

The first thought to create the Spacecraft Tarot came when I realized that the idea of the Fool shares many thematic similarities with the spacecraft called Sputnik I. In 1958, Sputnik I became the first artificial satellite launched into Earth's orbit. When Sputnik I appeared in the sky for the first time, the world was utterly baffled — what was this strange beeping on the radio? What did it mean, and should people be afraid? Nobody realized at the time that this little silver satellite would be the domino that kicked off a chain of events, leading to half a century of ground-breaking science, innovation, and collaboration in space. Just as the Fool stands on the edge of a cliff, Sputnik I flew at the very precipice of the space age. Once I made that connection, all the other cards in the Major Arcana clicked quickly into place!

• Do you have a favourite card from the deck - and why?

That's a very difficult question. I'd have to go with the Star, which is represented by the James Webb Space Telescope. I saw JWST in person on my very first day working at NASA and I'll never forget it. I was also working the mission the day it launched on Christmas of last year. JWST is truly a revolutionary telescope, and very worthy of being depicted on the Star card!

• What message do you hope your deck will convey to its audience?

I communicate about spacecraft a lot during my day job, and what has struck me the most over the years is how spacecraft organically develop characters and personalities of their own. They are like extensions of our human souls, searching the cosmos for answers and adventures. We send them into the unknown with great hopes and dreams for them. And just like us, spacecraft face challenges, learn new things, experience success and defeat. You can't think about Voyager, literally 44 years and billions of miles from home, and not have your mind blown! You can't think about the Opportunity Mars rover losing communication with mission control after a dust storm and not feel a little sad. I want the Spacecraft Tarot to be able to connect people to how cool and interesting space exploration is by applying a context of familiar tropes and symbology.

I think there is a strong misconception that space exploration is focused solely on moving human beings off the planet Earth, and that can't be further from the truth. So many of our endeavours in space are focused on benefiting life here on Earth. We use Earth satellite imagery to inform disaster management responses as well as accurately monitor and measure climate change. We use the microgravity environment of the International Space Station as a way to test medical treatments. We also study other planets and solar systems in order to understand how our planet and solar system developed. I wish more people understood that we explore space in order to improve life on Earth, first and foremost.

• How can people find you and your deck?

You can find everything on my website,!


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