Amy Mainzer is a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A planetary astronomer, her scientific interests include asteroids, comets, astronomical telescope and camera design, and science education. She served as deputy project scientist for NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, an Earth-orbiting telescope designed to survey the entire sky in heat-sensitive infrared wavelengths. Following successful completion of its prime mission, this telescope was renamed NEOWISE and given a new mission to characterize asteroids and comets; Mainzer is the principal investigator. She also is the principal investigator of the proposed Near-Earth Object Camera mission, which would carry out a comprehensive survey of asteroids and comets using a dedicated space telescope surveying the solar system from a vantage point beyond the Earth’s Moon. Prior to joining the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2003, she designed and built the fine guidance sensor for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope as an engineer at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center. She currently serves as the curriculum consultant and on-camera host for the PBS Kids series “Ready Jet Go!” an animated and live-action children’s show aimed at teaching space and Earth science to kids as young as 3.
Robert (Bob) Richards is a space entrepreneur and futurist. He co-founded the International Space University, Singularity University, SEDS, the Space Generation Foundation, and Moon Express, Inc., a lunar resources company competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. He is president and CEO of Moon Express, Inc. Richards chairs the Space Commerce Committee of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and is a member of the International Institute of Space Law. As director of the Optech Space Division, he led the company's technology into orbit in 2004 and to the surface of Mars in 2007 aboard the NASA Phoenix Lander, making the first discovery of falling Martian snow. Richards studied aerospace and industrial engineering at Ryerson University; physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto; and space science at Cornell University, where he became special assistant to Carl Sagan. Richards is an evangelist of the "NewSpace" movement and is the recipient of the K.E. Tsiolkovski Medal, the Space Frontier “Vision to Reality” Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Commendation, and Aviation & Space Technology Laurel. He holds a doctorate of space achievement (honoris causa) from the International Space University for “distinguished accomplishments in support of humanity’s exploration and use of space.”
Carissa Christensen is an internationally known expert on the space industry and technology forecasting. She led the creation of widely used data tools now considered global metrics for the commercial space and satellite sectors. She is a frequent speaker and author on space and satellite trends, serves as a strategic adviser to government and commercial clients, and has been an expert witness who has testified before Congress on market dynamics. Christensen is a managing partner of The Tauri Group, an analytic consulting firm that she cofounded in 2001. She also is an active investor in technology-focused startups and advises several companies she has helped seed. She serves on the board of QxBranch, an early stage quantum-computing firm. Christensen holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where she specialized in science and technology policy. She also completed the General Course in Government at the London School of Economics and was a Douglass Scholar at Rutgers University. She is an associate fellow of The American Aeronautics and Astronautics Association.
France A. Córdova is an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She leads the $7.5 billion independent federal agency which is the only government agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery; technological innovation; and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Córdova has been a leader in science, engineering, and education for more than three decades. She has a distinguished career in both higher education and government. Her contributions in multi-spectrum research on x-ray and gamma ray sources and space-borne instrumentation have made her an internationally recognized astrophysicist. She is president emerita of Purdue University, chancellor emerita of the University of California, Riverside, and former vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She also served as NASA's chief scientist and is a recipient of the agency's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal. Prior to joining NASA, Córdova was the astronomy department head at Pennsylvania State University and deputy group leader at Los Alamos National Lab. She received her BA from Stanford University and her PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology.
Ellen Stofan is NASA chief scientist, serving as principal adviser to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency's science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments. Prior to her appointment, Stofan was vice president of Proxemy Research and honorary professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University College London in England. Her research has focused on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn's moon Titan, and Earth. Stofan is an associate member of the Cassini Mission to Saturn Radar Team and was a co-investigator on the Mars Express Mission's MARSIS sounder. She also was principal investigator on the Titan Mare Explorer, a proposed mission to send a floating lander to a sea on Titan. Previously, she held a number of senior scientist positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.. Stofan holds master’s and doctoral degrees in geological sciences from Brown University and a bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary. Her many awards and honors include the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
George Whitesides is CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. He is responsible for guiding all aspects of building the company's commercial spaceline, including the spaceflight program as well as small satellite launch capability. He also is responsible for manufacturing a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo space vehicles. Previously, Whitesides served as chief of staff for NASA, where he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers. Prior to NASA, Whitesides served as executive director of the National Space Society, a space policy and advocacy group founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and journalist Hugh Downs. He is on Caltech's Space Innovation Council and the advisory board of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement. He also is a fellow of the UK Royal Aeronautical Society. Whitesides previously chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He has served on the board of trustees of Princeton University and Virgin Unite USA, and was a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Space Security. He has testified on American space policy before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Whitesides holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School and a master's degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge in England. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia. He is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.
Heather Hava is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences program with an emphasis in Bioastronautics at the University of Colorado Boulder. She received a 2012 NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship for her research (“Improving Habitability, Mood & Diet through Bioregenerative Food Systems”) and a 2016 Lemelson-MIT “Eat-It” Student Prize for her technology that helps create better connections between humans and plants on Earth and in space. Hava’s research focuses on developing plant growth robotics and automation technologies such as SmartPOT and Ag.Q. (A.I. for agriculture) to improve astronauts’ nutritional and psychological health during long-duration space missions. Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLiSS) such as these will be the cornerstone technology for space habitats. Moreover, these inventions and research will increase self-sufficiency, food security, and the restorative benefits of nature for life on Earth as well as for interplanetary destinations. Prior to her graduate studies, Hava worked on the Orion Project with Lockheed Martin as a project/design engineer for four years. In addition to her graduate work, she is an entrepreneur who has two start-up technology companies, Stellar Synergetics and Autoponics, which commercialize her research and innovations for sustainable Earth applications and space exploration.
As director of the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), Jason Crusan serves as NASA’s senior executive, advisor, and advocate on technology and innovation approaches leading to new flight and system capabilities for human exploration of space. He leads integration with the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and programs within other HEOMD divisions including International Space Station and Exploration Systems Development. Using an integrated approach that leverages public-private partnerships, industry, international partners, and academia, Crusan serves as the senior leader for AES across all NASA centers which involves: developing and maintaining critical human spaceflight capabilities; maturing new integrated systems, instruments, and ground systems; and delivering critical multi-million dollar flight hardware for NASA. He provides the executive management and leadership needed to develop effective technology development strategies, system acquisition strategies, contracting mechanisms, joint investment models and partnerships—in short, he develops the innovative approaches needed to maximize NASA’s access to new technologies and capabilities for human spaceflight. Currently, Crusan also serves as the Director of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) formed to advance the utilization of open innovation methodologies within the U.S. government.
Jason Dunn founded Made In Space in 2010. With a core focus on space manufacturing, the company has since built, flown, and operated the first and second 3-D printers in space. Installed on the International Space Station (ISS), the first Made In Space Zero-Gravity 3-D printer began space manufacturing in November 2014. The company operates the second-generation 3-D printer on the ISS, called the Additive Manufacturing Facility, enabling groups across the planet to have hardware manufactured in space. Made In Space is working with NASA to develop the Archinaut Program to enable in-space robotic manufacturing and assembly of large space structures. As chief technology officer, Dunn oversees deployment of the founding vision into the technical path of the projects, as well as development of the technology roadmap for the company. Dunn holds two degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Central Florida, has studied at the Singularity University Graduate Summer Program, and is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of space exploration, advanced manufacturing and the theory of disruption.
Jedidah Isler is an award-winning astrophysicist and a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University, where she studies supermassive, hyperactive black holes called blazars. She has been recognized as a TED Fellow, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and one of The Root’s 100 Most Influential African-Americans in 2016 for her innovative research and efforts to inspire a new generation of STEM leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. She is the founder of #VanguardSTEM and host of the monthly web series “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.” She has been an invited participant in Astronomy Night at the White House and has been featured in various publications, including Wired, Diversity in Action, Ebony, NPR: CodeSwitch and The Crisis Magazine. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times. Isler works with schools, museums, libraries, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations across the country to advance the cause of truly inclusive STEM engagement, and has established herself as a champion of access and empowerment in STEM education from middle school and beyond.
Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, has worked to bring about a robust U.S. commercial space exploration program. His goal has been to make space just another place to do business. NanoRacks is a leader in the commercial use of the International Space Station and other privately owned space platforms. As the first company to own and market its own hardware on the space station, NanoRacks has deployed 140 satellites from the space station for companies and universities, as well as for NASA and the European Union. Researchers and students from a dozen countries use the NanoRacks’ research hardware on a commercial basis. Earlier, as CEO of MirCorp, which leased the Russian space station Mir, he oversaw the first ever (and still only) commercially funded manned mission of over 70 days to the Mir space station. Today, Manber is focused on developing private, commercial space stations that are the next step after the International Space Station. He has served as an adviser to numerous companies and governments. The author of multiple books, his second, “Selling Peace,” chronicles his time working with the Russian space program. In 2012, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal.
Lucianne Walkowicz is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where she studies stellar magnetic activity, how stars influence a planet's suitability as a host for alien life and how to use advanced computing to discover unusual events in large astronomical data sets. Walkowicz is founding director of the new LSSTC Data Science Fellowship program, an initiative to provide astronomy graduate students with training in advanced computing, and coordinates the community of science collaborations for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. She also is an artist and works in a variety of media, from oil paint to sound. Walkowicz holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington. She was the Kepler Fellow for the Study of Planet-Bearing Stars at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Henry Norris Russell Fellow at Princeton University before joining the Astronomy Department at The Adler Planetarium. She is a 2013 TED Senior Fellow, a 2011 National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and has been internationally recognized for her advocacy for conservation of dark night skies.
Mike Gold is vice president of Washington Operations and Business Development for Space Systems/Loral (SSL), A commercial satellite manufacturer and a global leader in space systems and robotics. At SSL, Gold is responsible for interactions with Congress and executive branch agencies as well as business development for emerging space technologies. In 2008, Gold was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to serve on the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), and was appointed to serve as chair of the organization in 2012. The COMSTAC is a federal advisory committee comprised of leading commercial space industry executives that provides advice to the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Additionally, Gold was appointed by the National Research Council to serve on the Space Technology Industry-Government-University roundtable, which supports NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Gold is an attorney who writes about the intersection between the commercial space industry and export controls, and has testified before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives as a subject matter expert in commercial space policy, law and innovation.
Red Whittaker, the Fredkin Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, is referred to as the "Father of Field Robotics" for pioneering contributions to fielded, mobile, autonomous robots. He is known worldwide for developing robots that work in unpredictable environments like planetary surfaces, mines and damaged nuclear reactors. Whittaker led the Tartan Race Team that won a $2 million DARPA driverless challenge and spawned the intelligent car industry. He founded the National Robotics Engineering Center. Whittaker is the founder and chairman of Astrobotic Technology, which is delivering 10 lunar payloads and rovers from seven nations to the moon. Science Digest named him one of the top 100 U.S innovators for his work in robotics, and Fortune named him a "Hero of U.S. Manufacturing.” Whittaker is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His recognitions and honors include the Teare, Perlis, Engelberger, Metcalf and Heinz History Awards, and the Newell Medal for Research Excellence, the Ramos Medal for Systems Excellence, the Columbia Medal for aerospace achievement, and the Feigenbaum Prize for his contributions to machine intelligence.
Robbie Schingler is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet. Prior to Planet, Schingler spent nine years at NASA, where he helped build the Small Spacecraft Office at NASA Ames and was capture manager for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). He later served as NASA’s open government representative to the White House and served as chief of staff for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA. He received a MBA from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in space studies from the International Space University, and a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Santa Clara University. Schingler was a 2005 Presidential Management Fellow.
Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor began working with NASA as a flight surgeon in 2006 and became an astronaut. She spent more than nine months in Russia supporting medical operations for International Space Station crewmembers and served as deputy crew surgeon. Board certified in both internal and aerospace medicine, Auñón-Chancellor currently handles medical issues for both the Commercial Crew and International Space Station Operations branches. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She spent two months in Antarctica searching for meteorites as part of the ANSMET expedition, living on the ice 200 nautical miles from the South Pole. Auñón-Chancellor operated the Deep Worker submersible as part of the NEEMO 16 mission. She subsequently served as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 20 undersea exploration mission. She is certified as an International Space Station CAPCOM and served as the lead CAPCOM for the SpaceX-4 and SpaceX-8 cargo resupply missions. She is a member of American College of Physicians and the American College of Preventive Medicine.
Tim Hughes is senior vice president and general counsel for Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or Space X. He leads legal, regulatory, and global policy efforts. He joined the company in 2005 as its first in‐house counsel. He has helped take the company from true startup to one of the world’s most recognizable and innovative technology firms. His responsibilities span the company's broad corporate, contracting, export control, insurance, litigation, and launch licensing portfolios, as well as Space X's domestic and international policy agenda. Prior to joining Space X, Hughes served as majority counsel to the Committee on Science and Technology in the United States House of Representatives. He was the principal attorney responsible for drafting and shepherding the passage of groundbreaking commercial human spaceflight legislation, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (P.L. 108‐492), which helped to establish the legal and regulatory framework for commercial human spaceflight in the United States. A graduate of William and Mary Law School and Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, Hughes previously was a senior associate with Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, as well as in the Office of the Chief Counsel for the United States Secret Service.
Wanda Diaz-Merced of Gurabo, Puerto Rico, holds a multidisciplinary Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She has researched the use of sound as a perceptual tool, while analyzing diversity of astrophysics data sets. As a blind physicist, Diaz-Merced conducted research on using multimodal perception and behavioral psychology to investigate how attention mechanisms and coping strategies influence the analysis of ambiguous astrophysics data. Her current emphasis is on attention modulation, the prevention of cognitive overload and automaticity when analyzing space physics data. Her techniques brought forth evidence of events that otherwise had been ignored. Diaz-Merced is co-chair of the National Society of Black Physicists Multimodal Accessible project, the American Astronomical Society Working Group on Disability and Accessibility, and coordinates the global project Astrosense, which educates traditional and disabled learners to do research in astronomy. She holds a post-doctoral position at the Office of Astronomy for Development in South Africa.