Beyond the Cradle Speaker Bios

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

by Stacie Slotnick

March 1, 2017

Salome Asega is a Brooklyn-based artist and researcher whose practice celebrates dissensus and multivocality. Through participatory research, she works collaboratively to build interactive installations and to develop odd wearables. She is a co-host of speculative talk show Hyperopia: 20/30 Vision on bel-air radio and the assistant director of POWRPLNT, a digital art collaboratory. Asega has participated in residencies and fellowships at Eyebeam, New Museum, and the Laundromat Project, and she has given presentations at New Inc, Performa, Eyeo, and the Schomburg Center. She received her MFA from Parsons at The New School in Design and Technology and her BA from New York University in social practice.

Ocean explorer Katy Croff Bell uses deep sea technology to explore what lies at the depths of the ocean. For over 15 years, she has participated in or led more than 30 oceanographic and archaeological projects. Bell’s current work involves the utilization of telepresence technology on ocean exploration projects for remote science and education. She works with a large team to implement this technology on multidisciplinary expeditions around the world aboard E/V Nautilus. Expeditions are shared in real time with the world, revealing the wonders of the undersea world in real time, in an effort to engage and inspire a new generation of young explorers. Bell received her BS from MIT in ocean engineering, her master's degree in maritime archaeology at the University of Southampton, and her PhD in geological oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. She was a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, a 2006 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and is currently an MIT Media Lab Director's Fellow.

Kerri Cahoy is an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and leads the MIT Space Telecommunications, Astronomy, and Radiation (STAR) Lab. She works on nanosatellite laser communication systems and weather sensors, and on space telescope missions to directly image exoplanets. Cahoy is also developing a 6U CubeSat to test MEMS deformable mirror technology for high contrast coronagraph wavefront control systems. As well, she’s involved in NASA’s next launch of weather-sensing CubeSats in the summer and fall of 2017. Previously, Cahoy worked on spacecraft radio systems for space weather and planetary atmospheric sensing, nanosatellites. She worked on the MIT Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory lunar mission team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She has also used spacecraft radio systems to study the atmospheres and ionospheres of solar system planets.

Cady Coleman recently retired from NASA after spending over 6 months in space, accumulated over three missions. She flew twice on the Space Shuttle Columbia, and spent 159 days on the International Space Station in 2010-2011 as the expedition lead for both science and robotics on the mission. She led supply ship operations with NASA’s commercial partners for the Astronaut Office, and finished her NASA career in NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist working on open innovation and public private partnerships. She graduated from MIT with a B.S. in Chemistry and from the University of Massachusetts with a Ph.D in Polymer Science and Engineering. She was commissioned in 1983 as a second lieutenant and served in the US Air Force for 26 years.

Julien de Wit PhD '14 (XII) is a researcher in the Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences department of MIT. His primary interest and expertise "lie in the field of data science where Math and Science are brought together to make sense of newly accessible pieces of Reality!" Over the past five years, he has developed and applied new analysis techniques to map exoplanet atmospheres, study the radiative and tidal planet-star interactions in eccentric planetary systems, and constrain the atmospheric properties and mass of exoplanets solely from transmission spectroscopy. Julien is playing a critical role in the TRAPPIST/SPECULOOS project, and he is leading the atmospheric characterization of the planets for which he has already obtained startling results with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Ron Dantowitz is the president of MARS Scientific, a provider of high resolution telescopic tracking and imaging services for government, civilian, and commercial space programs. An aeronautical engineer, educator, and passionate STEM enthusiast, Ron oversees the operations, business development, and scientific research programs for MARS. In 2004 he led the team that provided the telescopic tracking videos seen worldwide by more than 1 billion people when SpaceShipOne made its historic flights into space to claim the X-Prize. Ron’s research includes hyperspectral imaging of launch vehicles and reentries, ground-based imaging of orbiting spacecraft, and developing new techniques for scientific imaging. He encourages all successful corporations to consider aggressively reinvesting in education and supporting student research whenever possible. MARS Scientific believes that education, public engagement, and inspiring the next generation are key contributions toward ensuring that humans will eventually become a multi-planetary species.

Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels, including TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, MINISTRY OF SPACE, and PLANETARY. He’s also the author of the New York Times bestseller GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, as well as the digital short-story DEAD PIG COLLECTOR. His latest book is the novella NORMAL. The movie RED is based on his graphic novel of the same name, and the film IRON MAN 3 is based on his Marvel Comics graphic novel IRON MAN: EXTREMIS. Ellis is currently developing his graphic novel sequence with Jason Howard, TREES, for television, and he continues to work as a screenwriter and producer in film and television. He has written extensively for VICE, WIRED UK and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and has given keynote speeches and lectures at events, such as dConstruct, ThingsCon, Improving Reality, SxSW, How The Light Gets In and Cognitive Cities. Ellis is currently working on a nonfiction book about the future of the city, serialising new graphic novel works, and developing and curating the revival of the Wildstorm creative library for DC Entertainment. A documentary about his work, CAPTURED GHOSTS, was released in 2012. Ellis is a Patron of the British Humanist Association, an Associate of the Institute of Atemporal Studies, and the literary editor of EDICT magazine.

Neil Gershenfeld is director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms. His unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from creating molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York's Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including Fab, When Things Start To Think, The Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, and PBS. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American's 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic's 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals. Dr. Gershenfeld has a BA in physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, a PhD in applied physics from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Strathclyde University, and the University of Antwerp, was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the research staff at Bell Labs.

Sheyna Gifford, MD, MSc, MA is a physician, science writer, and simulated astronaut for experimental long-duration space missions. Gifford was a mission specialist for NASA’s HERA VI–HERA, a unique three-story habitat designed to serve as an analog for isolation, confinement, and remote conditions in exploration scenarios. She served as health and safety officer and crew journalist for HI-SEAS IV, (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), a habitat on an isolated Mars-like site on the Big Island of Hawaii at approximately 8200 feet above sea level. A science journalist since 1997, she has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, and has contributed to the creation of science documentaries for National Geographic, VICE, and the History Channel. Gifford is currently the scientist-in-residence at the St. Louis Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dan Goods is passionate about creating experiences where people are reminded of the gift and privilege of being alive. During the day at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory he runs The Studio, a team developing creative ways of communicating and working to transform complex concepts into meaningful stories that can be universally understood. After hours, he works on creative projects around the world. Currently, he is collaborating on new public art pieces in San Diego and San Francisco, and is developing the Museum of Awe with David Delgado and Ivan Amato. Goods graduated as valedictorian from ArtCenter College of Design. Recently, LA Weekly selected him as “one of the most interesting people in Los Angeles.”

Ben Grossmann is co-founder of Magnopus, a VR content and technology company of more than 60 artists and engineers in Los Angeles. He is an Oscar-winning and Emmy Award-winning visual effects supervisor on feature films and TV series, where his virtual production techniques have dovetailed into leadership on VR/AR projects. Through Magnopus’ work in virtual and mixed reality since 2014, he has contributed to the company’s success in an array of next-gen projects in 360º video, including the Proto Award-winning Argos File, and game-engine powered VR experiences on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Gear VR for clients such as Disney, Facebook, and NASA. Grossmann is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Visual Effects Society.

Nowhere do the disciplines of art, architecture, and engineering fuse as seamlessly as in the work of inventor Chuck Hoberman, internationally known for his “transformable structures.” Through his products, patents, and structures, Hoberman demonstrates how objects can be foldable, retractable, or shape-shifting. He is the founder of Hoberman Associates, a NY-based multidisciplinary practice that utilizes transformable principles for a wide range of applications, including dynamic architecture, transformable stage sets, consumer products, deployable shelters, and structures for aerospace. Examples of his commissioned work include the transforming video screen for the U2 360° world tour (2009-2011), the Hoberman Arch in Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympic Games (2002), a retractable dome for the World’s Fair in Hanover, Germany (2000), and ‘Emergent Surface’ (2008) shown at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hoberman has more than 20 patents and has won numerous awards for his designs. He is the Pierce Anderson Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and is an associate faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

As a NASA astronaut (1978-1997), Jeffrey Hoffman made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log a thousand hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle. Hoffman was payload commander of STS-46, the first flight of the US-Italian Tethered Satellite System. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history (STS 51D; 4/1985), and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope (STS 61; 12/1993). As the astronaut office representative for EVA, he helped develop and carry out tests of advanced high-pressure space suit designs and of new tools and procedures needed for the assembly of the International Space Station. Following his astronaut career, Hoffman was NASA’s European Representative, working at the US Embassy in Paris. He is now a professor in MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, where he teaches courses on space operations and space systems design. His primary research interests are in improving the technology of space suits and designing innovative space systems for human and robotic space exploration. He directs the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, and is deputy principal investigator of an experiment on NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which will for the first time produce oxygen from extraterrestrial material. In 2007, Hoffman was elected to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. He received a BA in astronomy from Amherst College, a PhD in astrophysics from Harvard University, and an MSc in materials science from Rice University.

Joichi "Joi" Ito has been recognized for his work as an activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and advocate of emergent democracy, privacy, and internet freedom. As director of the MIT Media Lab, he is currently exploring how radical new approaches to science and technology can transform society in substantial and positive ways. Soon after coming to MIT, Ito introduced mindfulness meditation training to the Media Lab. Together with The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, founding director of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, Ito is promoting the contribution that awareness and focus can bring to the creativity process. Ito is Chairman of the Board of PureTech and as served as both board chair and CEO of Creative Commons. He sits on the boards of Sony Corporation, the Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The New York Times Company. In Japan, he is executive researcher of KEIO SFC, and he was a founder of Digital Garage, and helped establish and later became CEO of the country’s first commercial Internet service provider. Ito was an early investor in numerous companies, including Flickr, Six Apart,, littleBits, Formlabs, Kickstarter, and Twitter. Ito’s honors include TIME magazine’s "Cyber-Elite” listing in 1997 (at age 31) and selection as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum (2001). In 2013, he received an honorary D.Litt from The New School in New York City, and in 2015 an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Tufts University. He is co-author with Jeff Howe of Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future (Grand Central Publishing, December, 2016).

Keegan Kirkpatrick is the team lead and founder of RedWorks, a New Space technology startup in Lancaster, California. A graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, before turning entrepreneur he worked as an engineer at Masten Space Systems on the Mojave Air and Spaceport. An aerospace engineer by training and trade, Kirkpatrick has designed, built, and tested everything from boost pumps to satellite demonstrators. He’s taken part in dozens of rocket tests, led university projects to cast solid rocket motors, and helped design simulated space missions. In 2015, Kirkpatrick founded RedWorks with Paul Petros, Susan Jennings, and Lino Stavole to compete in, and make it to the finals of the AmericaMakes/NASA Centennial 3D Printed Habitat Challenge. The team is taking their technology back to Earth to make it possible to print building materials on-site using only local resources. This technology will address housing needs on Earth using technology made for Mars.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Elizabeth B. Klerman’s efforts are concentrated in clinical and biomathematical research, teaching, and clinical practice. In the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, her areas of research are the application of circadian and sleep research principles to normal and pathophysiologic states, as well as mathematical analysis and modeling of human circadian, sleep, and neurobehavioral mood and performance rhythms. Inpatient projects have included studies of sleep and circadian rhythms in blind people, changes in sleep and performance in healthy aging, the effects of chronic sleep restriction on neurobehavioral performance and alertness, and the effects of light and darkness on circadian rhythms. Dr. Klerman is director of the Analytic and Modeling Unit within the BWH Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. One goal is a productive cycle of experimental work-->mathematical modeling and predictions-->experimental work. Her teaching and mentoring work in patient-oriented research has been recognized with the awarding of a competitive renewal of her NIH K24 grant support.

Avi Loeb is the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He serves as chair of the Department of Astronomy, founding director of Harvard's Black Hole Initiative and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC). He also chairs the advisory committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative, serves as the science theory director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, and holds the Sackler Senior Professorship by Special Appointment at Tel Aviv University. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics, as well as vice chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. At Harvard, Loeb serves on the President's Task Force on Diversity and Belonging, the Provost's Allston Academic Planning Committee, and the FAS Dean's Faculty Resources Advisory Committee. In 2012, TIME magazine selected Loeb as one of the “25 most influential people in space.”

While 25 feet underwater in a six-million-gallon pool at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, training to perform spacewalks as a NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin asked the test director to turn the volume up in his headset and never heard a reply. He was immediately hoisted out of the pool to learn that he’d become deaf. Emergency surgery resulted in only partial recovery to his hearing which disqualified him from space flight. He worked at NASA Langley Research Center in the area of nondestructive testing, creating optical fiber sensors for measuring damage in aerospace vehicles resulting in publications in numerous scientific journals. He was appointed head of NASA Education, and served as co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Melvin was the US representative and chair of the International Space Education Board (ISEB). He is currently the host of the Lifetime competition series Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s competition series BattleBots. He has a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering, as well as four honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences, and philanthropy. Before becoming an astronaut, Leland was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 1986 College Draft to play professional football but a hamstring injury thwarted his NFL career with Detroit and then later with the Dallas Cowboys.

Philip Metzger is a planetary scientist with the University of Central Florida performing research related to asteroidal, lunar, and Martian regolith, and exploration technology. He is principal investigator of a NASA contract to develop small spacecraft that use planetary ice for thruster propellant. He’s also a cooperating scientist with NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, slated to go to the Moon in 2021. In 2014, he retired from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where he’d co-founded the KSC Swamp Works after working on the Space Shuttle and Space Station Integration teams. Metzger’s planetary science research led to NASA’s effort to protect historic lunar sites, including the Apollo landing sites, from rocket exhaust blast effects. He co-founded NASA’s biannual Workshop on Granular Materials in Lunar and Martian Exploration and was selected as Kennedy Space Center’s Scientist/Engineer of the Year for 2011. He received the astronaut’s Silver Snoopy award in 2011.

John Min is a PhD candidate studying jointly with George Church at the Harvard Medical School and Kevin Esvelt at the MIT Media Lab. Currently, he is developing in vivo systems to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of daisy-chain gene drive systems to control gene drives at a molecular level. In addition, he is applying his expertise in genome editing to investigate the extreme tolerance of tardigrades. Prior to studying at Harvard, Min worked on techniques using DNA as a construction material in DNA nanotechnology. Working with William Shih at Harvard, he made contributions to using DNA folded nanotubes aligned as a liquid crystal for NMR-based protein structure determination, as well as DNA-based scaffolds for single molecule studies. In this era of rapid advancements in DNA and genetic technologies, Min is interested in increasing public engagement, discussion, and safety in this area of science in order to maximize its benefits to the world.

Along with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Dava Newman is responsible for providing overall leadership, planning, and policy direction for NASA. Newman performs the duties and exercises the powers delegated by the administrator, assists the administrator in making final agency decisions, and acts for the administrator in his absence by performing all necessary functions to govern NASA operations and exercises the powers vested in the agency by law. Newman also is responsible for articulating the agency's vision and representing NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal and other appropriate government agencies, international organizations, and external organizations and communities. Prior to her tenure with NASA, Newman was the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Her expertise is in multidisciplinary research that encompasses aerospace biomedical engineering. Newman's research studies were carried out through space flight experiments, ground-based simulations, and mathematical modeling. Her latest research efforts included: advanced space suit design, dynamics and control of astronaut motion, mission analysis, and engineering systems design and policy analysis. She also had ongoing efforts in assistive technologies to augment human locomotion here on Earth. Newman is the author of Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design, an introductory engineering textbook published by McGraw-Hill, Inc. in 2002. She also has published more than 250 papers in journals and refereed conferences. As a student at MIT, Newman earned her PhD in aerospace biomedical engineering in 1992 and an MS degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy in 1989. She earned her BS degree aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1986.

Ayodamola (Ayo) Tanimowo Okunseinde is an artist and time-traveler living and working in New York. His works range from speculative design to wearable technology, and explorations of Afrofuturism / Reclamation. Okunseinde's collaborative project, Iyapo Repository, was recently exhibited at the Shanghai Biennial. Okunseinde studied Visual Arts and Philosophy at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey where he earned his BA. He also holds an MFA in design and technology from The New School, Parsons School of Design in New York where he is currently an adjunct faculty member.

Joe Paradiso is the Alexander W. Dreyfoos (1954) Professor in Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, where he directs the Responsive Environments group. He received his PhD in Physics from MIT in 1981 and a BSEE from Tufts University in 1977, and joined the Media Lab in 1994 after developing spacecraft control systems at Draper Lab and high-energy physics detectors at ETH Zurich. His current research explores how sensor networks augment and mediate human experience, interaction and perception. This encompasses wireless sensing systems, wearable and body sensor networks, energy harvesting and power management for embedded sensors, ubiquitous/pervasive computing and the Internet of Things, human-computer interfaces, and interactive music/media. He has published 300 articles and lectures internationally in these areas.

Alexandra Pontefract is a postdoctoral associate with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science at MIT, and has a MSc in biology from McMaster University and a PhD in planetary science from the University of Western Ontario. She is a geomicrobiologist interested in habitat generation through impact bombardment, deep subsurface life as well as life-detection techniques and instrumentation. Dr. Pontefract has extensive arctic field experience, and has served as science and instrument leads on several analog mission deployments. Currently she is working on SETG, the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes project, a portable DNA sequencer being designed for a rover payload to Mars.

Andrew Rush is president and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Made In Space, Inc. (MIS). He oversees the operations, business development, and strategy of MIS as it continues to push boundaries of manufacturing technology in space, at sea, and in other extreme environments for government, commercial, and defense customers. Rush served as general counsel during MIS’s startup phase and became CEO in 2015. His vision of an interplanetary existence for humanity guides MIS to drive forward offerings that enable life and work in space. As the first manufacturing company in space, MIS is uniquely positioned to unlock the tremendous potential of the space economy by creating the tools, infrastructure, and equipment necessary for humankind to build among the stars. Previously, Rush worked in the intellectual property, business, and ground crew/launch prep organizations at Masten Space Systems. Before becoming an attorney, he was a research assistant in a Solid State Physics Laboratory at the University of North Florida (UNF), where he currently serves on the Physics Advisory Group. Rush holds a BS in physics from UNF and a JD from Stetson University. He is also a recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award from UNF.

Andy Sellars is a clinical instructor and the director of the Technology and Cyberlaw Clinic at Boston University School of Law. Sellars has helped numerous technology clients with legal issues related to intellectual property, freedom of expression, data privacy, and academic freedom. Previously he was the Corydon B. Dunham First Amendment Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where he worked at the Center’s Cyberlaw Clinic and Digital Media Law Project. He received his JD from the George Washington University School of Law, where he was awarded the Peter D. Rosenberg Award for Patent and Intellectual Property Law and the Jan Jancin Award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Visionary filmmaker, innovator, and entrepreneur Douglas Trumbull has enjoyed a long and prestigious technological and creative career in filmmaking and entertainment technologies. He is known for his breakthrough work as one of four photographic effects supervisors on 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as acclaimed effects work on other titles, such as The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner. He directed Silent Running and Brainstorm, as well as numerous Expo and special venue films, videos, and attractions. Trumbull has been awarded more than twenty patents, including one for the first entertainment simulator ride (Back To The Future:The Ride, at Universal Studios) and another for the Academy Award-winning Showscan® process for high-speed 70mm cinematography. He is the recipient of the Gordon E. Sawyer Academy Award for his contributions to cinema technology. In 1994, Trumbull merged his company Ridefilm Corporation with IMAX and helped to launch the successful IMAX IPO. While continuing to write and direct, Trumbull has continued to be fascinated with the challenges of making movies using advanced production technologies, while also developing an immersive cinematic language. He has set up Trumbull Studios in Western Massachusetts and continues to experiment and push the boundaries of giant screen, high frame-rate, extreme brightness 3D, and virtual digital production. His Magi process of 4K 3D at 120 frames per second, and new Magi screening concept (MAGI Pod), offer an immersive “Giant Screen” experience in a small 70-seat prefabricated theater at a fraction of conventional theater costs. The Magi process allows unlimited camera movement and fast action, and is the first time in cinema history that virtually everything that occurs before the camera is captured and delivered to the ultra-wide screen in perfect clarity and deep 3D without any strobing, judder, or blur. Trumbull has several projects under development for production at Trumbull Studios using the Magi process.

Erika Wagner is the business development manager for Blue Origin, LLC, a developer of vehicles and technologies to enable human space transportation. Prior to joining Blue Origin, Wagner worked with the X PRIZE Foundation as senior director of exploration prize development and founding executive director of the X PRIZE Lab@MIT. Previously, she served at MIT as science director and executive director of the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program, a multi-university spacecraft development initiative to investigate the physiological effects of reduced gravity. From 2009 to 2012, Wagner was a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group, furthering the research and education potential of commercial suborbital launch vehicles. Today, she serves on the boards of the Washington Aerospace Scholars and American Society for Gravitational and Space Research, as well as the National Academies Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space. Wagner’s interdisciplinary academic background includes a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt University, a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, and a PhD in bioastronautics from the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Her research spanned human and mammalian adaptation to microgravity, partial gravity, and centrifugation, as well as organizational innovation and prize theory. She is also an alumna of the International Space University.

Ariel Waldman sits on the council for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, a program that nurtures radical, science fiction-inspired ideas that could transform future space missions. She is the co-author of a congressionally-requested National Academy of Sciences report on the future of human spaceflight. She is also the author of What's It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There. Waldman is the founder of, a directory of ways for anyone to participate in space exploration. In addition, she is the global director of Science Hack Day, a grassroots endeavor to prototype things with science which is now in over 25 countries. In 2013, the White House honored Waldman for being a Champion of Change in citizen science.

Danielle Wood is a space systems engineer and researcher with expertise in technology policy for the US and emerging nations. Wood is a leading scholar on the questions facing emerging nations as they pursue new domestic capability in space engineering. Wood also develops modeling methods to inform the design of complex space systems. Wood is passionate about designing satellite systems that serve societal needs while integrating new technology. Wood's professional experience includes work with NASA, the Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Dr. Wood studied at MIT, where she earned a PhD in engineering systems, MS in aerospace engineering, MS in technology policy, and BS in Aerospace Engineering.

Paul Wooster is a lead in the technical development of SpaceX’s Mars architecture and vehicles, including both Red Dragon and human-scale systems. He is also the manager of Spacecraft Guidance Navigation and Control at SpaceX. Since joining SpaceX in 2007, he has led the development of a diverse set of capabilities, ranging from space-to-space communications to relative navigation systems. He serves as the SpaceX technical expert for Dragon rendezvous, proximity operations, and capture with the International Space Station, including for the overall system design and fault tolerance associated with Dragon approach to ISS. Prior to joining SpaceX, Wooster was a research scientist in the Aero/Astro department at MIT, where he also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. His research at MIT included the design and evaluation of a wide range of human exploration system architectures and development of strategies for affordable human Moon and Mars exploration.

Rie Yamamoto is a member of ALE, a Tokyo-based space entertainment startup that is creating shooting stars on demand. ALE aims to provide its space entertainment technology to the arts, media, and entertainment industries. In 2018, ALE plans to launch its first satellite and premiere a meteor show. At ALE, Yamamoto is in charge of international marketing and sales with the mission to bring the company’s technology to a global audience. She previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Teach For Japan. Yamamoto has a bachelor of arts degree in international relations and economics from Brown University.

Maria T. Zuber is Vice President for Research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics at MIT, where she has responsibility for research administration and policy. She oversees MIT Lincoln Laboratory and over 60 research laboratories and centers at the Institute. Zuber is responsible for integrity and compliance, and technology licensing and intellectual property, and plays a central role in research relationships with the federal government. Zuber’s research bridges planetary geophysics and the technology of space-based laser and radio systems. Since 1990, she has held leadership roles associated with scientific experiments or instrumentation on nine NASA missions, most notably serving as principal investigator of the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Zuber has won numerous awards, including the MIT James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award, the highest honor the MIT faculty bestows to one of its own. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society, and the American Geophysical Union. In 2015, she was elected to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars. Zuber is the first woman to lead a science department at MIT and the first to lead a NASA planetary mission. In 2013, President Obama appointed Zuber to the National Science Board, and in May 2016, Zuber was elected as Chair of the NSB.