Back to Top

Masters Forum 17: Celebrating 50 Years of NASA

Masters Forum 17Masters Forum 17 marked a very special occasion in NASA’s history: the 50th anniversary since the Agency’s founding in October 1958. This presented a unique opportunity to reflect upon the amazing achievements accomplished over the past five decades, their significance, and lessons learned from those accomplishments.

The Forum was held in Dana Point, Calif. October 2830, 2008. It’s theme, Exploration and Scientific Discoveries — Embracing a Future Enabled by a Legacy, was also a chance to look forward as NASA moves into the future — a future that will be possible, in part, because of what we have learned — filled with new opportunities and discoveries and unlimited in its promise for humankind.

The three-day agenda included several panel discussions, including thought-provoking presentations and dynamic group discussions; break-out groups for aknowledge-sharing, during which teams of participants developed a report on their activity and later presented it; and working lunches.


Vincent J. Bilardo Jr., NASA Glenn Research Center Alphonso (Al) Diaz, University of CaliforniaRiverside Andreas Diekmann, European Space Agency Clive L. Dym, Harvey Mudd College Barry Goldstein, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Carolyn S. Griner, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) Angelo (Gus) Guastaferro, NASA APPEL and NASA retiree Noel W. Hinners, Consultant InFact Communications/NASA APPEL Todd May, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Dan McCleese, Jet Propulsion Laboratory J. Richard Morris, Jet Propulsion Laboratory William Pomerantz, X PRIZE Foundation Nicholas Skytland, NASA Johnson Space Center Peter H. Smith, University of Arizona
Ashwin R. Vasavada, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Carl Walz, NASA Headquarters      


NASA's 50th: Reflections, Projections, and Insights

  • Angelo (Gus) Guastaferro is currently consulting for NASA on future space systems and serving as Chair Emeritus of Hampton Roads Technology Council and Director, Virginia Technology Alliances.
  • Carolyn S. Griner completed a thirty-six-year career with NASA, starting as a college co-operative education student and retiring as deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center.
  • Alphonso (Al) Diaz has been the vice chancellor for administration at the University of CaliforniaRiverside since January 2006. He retired from NASA in October 2005. At NASA he served most recently as the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate.
  • Charles F. Kennel was previously associate administrator at NASA for Mission to Planet Earth and the UCLA executive vice chancellor, its chief academic officer.
  • Kenneth J. Szalai was director of the Dryden Flight Research Center until July 31, 1998.

Abstract — On the eve of NASA’s 50th anniversary, a panel of former NASA leaders will reflect on some of the Agency’s most significant achievements in human space flight, space and earth sciences, and aeronautics. Panel members will discuss the significance of these accomplishments and their unique contributions to the advancement of space and aeronautics for humankind. They will also cover what we have learned from the challenges of the past fifty years and share their personal stories, lessons learned, and insights from these experiences — especially those that are important to consider as NASA moves forward. While examining the remarkable progress, pace of scientific discovery, and technical accomplishments during the past five decades, the panel will also look forward to try to anticipate what is possible in the next fifty years of continued exploration and technological development. Topics may include the following:

  • Exploring deeper into the cosmos, will we find life or other habitable bodies that enable the expansion of human activity in space?
  • What great scientific questions will be answered? What new questions will emerge?
  • Will we discover the fundamental processes that led to life on Earth?
  • Where are we on the natural climate cycle, and how does human activity affect this cycle?
  • What great advancements might we anticipate in aeronautics and global transportation systems in the future?

Following these projections, there will be an extended period for an active group discussion.


Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration
Speaker — Carl Walz is currently the director for the Advanced Capabilities Division in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. He is responsible for a broad range of activities, including human research, technology development, nuclear power and propulsion, and the lunar robotic exploration programs to support the Vision for Space Exploration.

Abstract — NASA is currently undertaking its most challenging mission in its history: implementing the Vision for Space Exploration. As we reflect upon the past fifty years of NASA and try to anticipate the future of space, it is important to examine what is being done in the present. The Vision addresses many near- and far-term goals for human exploration, including honoring current commitments for the completion of the International Space Station, developing new launch systems to meet the future requirements of space access, and establishing significant lunar exploration capabilities as well as eventual human missions to Mars and beyond. NASA is conducting much of this work in house, employing the technical and scientific expertise that resides in its centers. In doing so, it is reestablishing itself as a premier R&D agency. A representative from the organization that is leading these efforts for NASA will talk about what is currently being done and some of the challenges and opportunities this program presents, share what we are learning as a result of this undertaking, and will attempt to present a future that will be enabled by this work. (Presented by Jitendra Joshi, NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate)

Presentation — APPEL Foundations of Aerospace: Implementing the U.S. Space Exploration Policy (Dr. Jitendra Joshi) (PDF)

The Future of Space

  • Noel W. Hinners consults for NASA, the aerospace industry, and 4-D Systems, which supports the NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership. He retired in January 2002 from Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, where he was vice president of flight systems with primary responsibility for their NASA missions. Dr. Hinners served as NASA associate deputy administrator and chief scientist, director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and director of the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Science, and director of Lunar Programs. Before entering government service, he was department head of Lunar Exploration with Bellcomm, Inc., where he was responsible for Apollo lunar science formulation and Apollo site selection support to NASA.
  • Todd May currently serves as special assistant to the director at Marshall Space Flight Center. In a dual assignment, he serves as the manager of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Lunar Precursor Robotic program. Previously, he served as deputy associate administrator in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, where he oversaw a $5 billion annual portfolio including more than 100 space flight missions. Todd began his NASA career as an engineer at Marshalls Materials and Processes Laboratory.
  • Nicholas Skytland works in the Strategic Partnerships Office at NASA Johnson Space Center, where he supports the development of partnerships with other agencies, foreign space programs, academic, and business entities in relation to space operations. He is also the project manager of the EVA Physiology, Systems, and Performance Project (EPSP) within the Space Life Sciences Directorate and the Human Research Program. He is responsible for managing an operationally driven research project with the goal of identifying critical design parameters for NASAs next-generation space suits. Nick’s passions are government innovation and participatory exploration.
  • William Pomerantz has been the director of space projects at the X PRIZE Foundation since 2005. He currently manages the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, a $2 million, NASA-funded prize competition, and was one of the primary authors of the Google Lunar X PRIZE.
  • Clive L. Dym is Fletcher Jones Professor of engineering design and director of the Center for Design Education at Harvey Mudd College. He has held appointments at the University at Buffalo; the Institute for Defense Analyses; Carnegie Mellon University; Bolt, Beranek, and Newman; and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, as well as visiting appointments at the TECHNION-Israel Institute of Technology, the Institute for Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton, Stanford, Xerox PARC, Northwestern, and USC. He was founding editor of the journal Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis, and Manufacturing and has written eleven books.

Abstract — Predicting the future is easy — people do it all the time. Predicting it with accuracy, however, is much harder, as they generally get it wrong. As Yogi Berra observed, “The future aint what it used to be!”

Predicting space has proven to be challenging, even for the most visionary people. Wernher von Brauns fifty-year vision for space exploration from the mid 50s, as captured in his famous Collier’s articles, has yet to be realized, while other advances in commercial space, robotics capabilities, life sciences, micro-electronics, and the expansion of the international space community, to name but a few, have progressed in ways that were not imagined during the founding of the space program.

Given that outlook, one might question the utility of trying to anticipate the future of space. Perhaps it is an artifact of natural human intellectual curiosity — examining what has been and anticipating what is possible, perhaps, because it is simply fun. Whatever the motivation, it serves a useful purpose: stimulating a sense of possibilities and presenting choices; establishing a vision, or framework, to guide research, academic preparation, and strategic economic investments; and anticipating new partnerships beyond our comfort zone. It permits us to learn from the past without being shackled by it.

It is safe, however, to expect that the next 50 years of space exploration will not resemble the first 50 years. The space program has already evolved significantly since its early creation, when the dominant forces in human space flight were shaped by the “Space Race” that was precipitated by the Cold War, resulting in exclusively governmentrun space agencies from the superpowers alone.

A different, more inclusive, expansive, and heterogeneous future is taking shape. As NASA undertakes its most ambitious missions in history — challenges that demand new levels of collaboration with the private, academic, and international communities — the landscape is becoming increasingly diverse. Private companies are developing launch vehicles and pursuing space tourism with little to no government involvement. International participation in space continues to expand significantly, even in small countries with developing economies. Technology now enables the sharing of information and data on a scale unimaginable just a generation ago, facilitating broader participation in space by the research community and the public.

This panel will examine emerging visions and opportunities made possible by increased participation in space from a broader, more inclusive perspective, including emerging partnerships in human space flight and scientific discovery, innovative opportunities for greater public participation in space exploration, new private-sector initiatives that are stimulating innovation and commercial involvement in space, and the challenges associated with developing the future workforce required to enable this future.


Learning from Mars

  • Dan McCleese is the chief scientist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
  • J. Richard Morris is a former Mars Exploration Rover mission manger and currently serves as the sequencing software cognizant engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).
  • Peter H. Smith is the principal investigator for the Phoenix mission and is a senior research scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Barry Goldstein is the project manager for the Phoenix mission and has been the chief engineer for the MVACS payload for Mars Polar Lander and deputy flight system manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers.
  • Ashwin R. Vasavada is the deputy project scientist for Mars Science Laboratory.

Abstract — NASA has changed the way we explore Mars, alternating orbital and surface robotic missions, at frequent periodic opportunities, and using missions of increasing capabilities, remarkable performance, and — in the case of the Mars Exploration Rovers — surprising duration and reliability. NASA has learned, and continues to learn, from the way it executes the Mars program, conducts its science missions, and develops these innovative projects, as well as from the impressive science these missions provide about Mars. The panel members will share their stories and experiences from recent and current missions, review some of their challenges and amazing successes, and summarize the incredible scientific discoveries as well as their significance. The implications these recent scientific discoveries may have for planned near-term missions to Mars will be addressed, as well as the future of Mars exploration in the next decade (20102020), including the return of samples from Mars to laboratories on Earth.


International Partnering
Speaker — Andreas Diekmann is the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Washington office. In this function, he represents ESA vis–vis partners in the United States and Canada, monitors space policies and plans in these countries, and supports ongoing cooperation activities. Prior to coming to D.C., he worked six years for the Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Exploration in ESA’s Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Mr. Diekmann headed the division responsible for European industry-driven use of the International Space Station (ISS) and ESA’s education activities in the area of human space flight and exploration. Before, he held the position of senior program engineer dealing with ISS use and operation policies and international partner agreements. Since joining ESA in 1998, Mr. Diekmann has worked in ESA’s headquarters in Paris, France, in the Strategy and Plan Department. Prior to his time with ESA, he served in the German Space Agency (DARA) in technology development and program-planning functions, following two years of a research fellowship at Japan’s National Aerospace Laboratory in Tokyo. Mr. Diekmann has a doctorate degree in flight mechanics and a diploma in aerospace engineering both from Technical University Aachen, Germany.

Abstract — International collaboration in space has resulted in major accomplishments in both space sciences as well as human space flight. These collaborations have now become commonplace as many current NASA missions include international participation and many international missions also incorporate NASA instruments. A representative from the European Space Agency will discuss some of the most significant accomplishments in the European space program and the significance of these achievements. He will also provide insights and lessons learned from these activities as well as project how this knowledge may contribute to future space exploration. International collaboration in space exploration will also be discussed — what has worked well and some of the challenges we should understand for future collaborations.

Presentation — International Partnering: European Space Agency (ESA) — Organisation, Programmes, Ambitions (Andreas Diekmann) (PDF)

Building the Team: The Ares 1-X Upper Stage Simulator

  • Vincent J. Bilardo Jr. currently serves as the manager for the Glenn Research Center contribution to the Ares I-X test flight, the turnkey design/build/delivery of an Upper Stage Simulator flight test article.
  • Matthew Kohut of InFact Communications is a member of the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) team within the Office of the Chief Engineer. He is responsible for the biweekly e-newsletter ASK the Academy, APPELs current case study initiative, and other communications projects.

Abstract — In 2006, a team at Glenn Research Center received authority to build the Ares I-X Upper Stage Simulator as an in-house project. The selected design required manufacturing eleven segments of half-inch-thick steel that stretched 18 ft. in diameter and 9.5 ft. tall. The job would incorporate all the basic hardware development functions: cutting, rolling, welding, inspecting, sandblasting, painting, drilling, and tapping for instrumentation.

The significance of this assignment for Glenn could not be overstated. Most of its recent space flight project work consisted of developing small (“glove box”) microgravity experiment payloads for the Space Shuttle. Building a project team with the right competencies and skills to undertake this new work would prove to be the greatest project management challenge.

Since the project team was beginning with no in-house expertise in large-scale fabrication or manufacturing, it required an entirely new set of procedures. The project also had to demonstrate compliance with AS 9100, an aerospace manufacturing quality standard as part of a centerwide effort to achieve AS 9100 certification. For the Upper Stage Simulator, this meant putting in place well-documented procedures that met with the approval of both the Safety and Mission Assurance organization and the technicians doing the work.

Preparing for a fabrication job of this size and scope demanded a wholesale renovation of a facility: new cranes, new assembly platforms, new heavy carts to move materials. This meant retrofitting an older manufacturing shop floor that was large enough to accommodate the hardware. The facility modification had to be done quickly in about three or four months so the project could begin work as scheduled on its first “pathfinder” segments. The scale of the Upper Stage Simulator called for a manufacturing capability that didn’t exist at Glenn. This fundamental reorientation toward heavy manufacturing posed challenges in terms of both the workforce and the organization. The center had lots of skilled machinists but few fabricators and a critical shortage of welders. There was also a need to reconfigure the manufacturing organization itself. Putting together the right team to meet these needs was critical.