Space Technology Policy: Exploring Options

Brought to you by
ACS Science & the Congress Project
and the American Geophysical Union

Honorary Co-Hosts

Senate S&T Caucus
Co-Chairs Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

The Apollo Program spawned a space-based infrastructure that enables modern living: Communication, weather monitoring, and geographical positioning are critical infrastructures that permit and enhance global safety and security while providing economic opportunity and growth. Today many nations, via both public and private sectors, are building up space-based technologies to capitalize the American-style ingenuity launched over 50 years ago. In considering directions for U.S. space policy, this panel will discuss options geared to maximize economy-driving innovation, exploration, and achievement.

Video from January 28, 2013

Speaker Bios & Presentations

Christopher Chyba, Ph.D., is professor of astrophysical sciences and international affairs at Princeton University, where he directs the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School. His security-related research emphasizes nuclear and biological weapons policy, arms control, and nonproliferation. His scientific research focuses on solar system exploration and the search for life elsewhere. Prior to coming to Princeton, Dr. Chyba co-directed Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), was associate professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford, and held the Carl Sagan Chair at the SETI Institute. Entering as a White House Fellow, he successively served from 1993-1995 on the National Security Council staff and the National Security Division of OSTP. In 1996, Dr. Chyba received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and in 2001, he was named a MacArthur Fellow for his work in both international security and planetary science. He is past chair of the National Research Council of the National Academies' Committee on Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars, and served on the executive committee of NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee, for which he chaired the Solar System Exploration Subcommittee. In summer 2009, Dr. Chyba served on the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.

Mason Peck, Ph.D., has been NASA’s Chief Technologist since January 1, 2012. As Chief Technologist, Peck serves as the Agency’s primary advisor on matters of technology prioritization, policy and programs, and helps communicate how NASA technologies benefit space missions and the day-to-day lives of Americans. Dr. Peck serves as NASA's chief technologist through an intergovernmental personnel agreement with Cornell University, where he is an associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and teaches in Cornell's Systems Engineering Program. He has a broad background in aerospace technology, from nearly 20 years in industry and academia. Prior to his NASA appointment, Dr. Peck also worked as an engineer and consultant with industry and organizations including Boeing, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Goodrich and Lockheed Martin. At Cornell, his work focuses on spacecraft dynamics, control and mission architectures. Some of this research includes micro-scale flight dynamics, gyroscopic robotics, and magnetically controlled spacecraft, most of which have been demonstrated on NASA microgravity flights. He has been the principal investigator for two nanosatellites, CUSat and Violet, which are anticipating launches in 2012-2013. Dr. Peck earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles as a Howard Hughes Fellow and a master's degree in English literature from the University of Chicago.

Jeffrey Thayer, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder and recipient of several teaching and research awards. He is the Director of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, where faculty, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students research astrodynamics, space and earth science, guidance and navigation satellite systems, and remote sensing. Dr. Thayer has over 22 years of experience leading research in the near-space environment, advancing remote sensing technologies, developing strategic plans for NASA and NSF, and publishing over 80 journal articles. To advance our understanding of the near-space environment’s impact on space assets, he studies geophysical fluid dynamics, gas-plasma interactions, and electrodynamics using ground and space-based observations along with theoretical modeling. Prior to arriving at CU, Dr. Thayer was a research physicist at SRI International and most notably principal investigator of a US national radar observatory in Greenland – The Sondrestrom Upper Atmosphere Research Facility. He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Geophysical Union, and Optical Society of America. Dr. Thayer has a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Michigan in Atmospheric and Space Sciences and a B.S. in Meteorology from SUNY Oneonta.

Steve Davis, Ph.D. is the Director of Advanced Projects at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). He has worked at SpaceX since 2003 and was the 14th employee in a company which has since grown to 2000 employees. At SpaceX, Dr. Davis has also worked as Chief Engineer on the Falcon-1 Guidance, Navigation, and Control system and as Lead Systems Engineer on the Dragon Spacecraft Program. As of 2012, SpaceX’s three successful Dragon missions are the first missions in history in which a private entity launched, orbited, reentered, and recovered a space capsule. Dr. Davis has founded and still owns several retail food businesses, his favorite concept being the Mr. Yogato frozen yogurt stores, where customers can earn discounts in goofy ways, such as doing the Thriller dance, getting a stamp on their forehead, or reciting the Braveheart speech. He has a B.S. in Finance and a B.A.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in Particle Physics from the University of Durham, an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. His dissertation was titled “The Trend Towards The Debasement Of American Currency.”

Laurie Leshin, Ph.D., is the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she leads the scientific, academic, and research enterprise at the oldest technological University in the US. Prior to that, she served for six years as a senior executive at NASA, working in both the science and human exploration programs. Before coming to NASA Dr. Leshin was The Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences, and the Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University. Her scientific expertise is in cosmochemistry; she is primarily interested in deciphering the record of water on objects in our solar system. Dr. Leshin is a member of the science team for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission. In 2004, she served on President Bush’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Dr. Leshin received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for this work, and the Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2011 for her work at NASA. The International Astronomical Union recognized her contributions to planetary science with the naming of asteroid 4922 Leshin. Dr. Leshin received her B.S. in Chemistry in 1987 from Arizona State, and her Ph. D. in Geochemistry in 1994 from California Institute of Technology.

Related Information

American Geophysical Union

The Program on Science & Global Security, Princeton University

Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA

Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado Boulder

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)

School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

National Academies

Congressional Research Service

National Space Policy of the United States of America

National Space Weather Program

Orbital Debris Quarterly News

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

American Chemical Society Science & the Congress Project


Chemical & Engineering News (a publication of the American Chemical Society)