Guests

Richard “Hawk” Altstatt
Richard L. “Hawk” Altstatt received an MS in Nuclear Engineering, specializing in Plasma Physics (fire) and Material Science (burning stuff) from NCSU and an MS in Engineering Science and Mechanics, specializing in Thermal Mechanics (fire again) and Instrumentation (sticking stuff in fire) from UTSI. Work performed and published for NASA included: investigation of the STS-107 tragedy, modeling of the radiation shielding for the International Space Station, meteor observations for International Leonid Meteor Shower Campaigns, modeling the Van Allen belts and the solar wind, test design for a solar sail, radiation testing of electronics parts for the DART spacecraft, and environment modeling for both Jupiter and the Moon. He has spent the last few years working for various parts of Missile Defense providing survivability engineering which includes radiation modeling for weapon systems and Chemical, Biological, Radioactive Nuclides, and Explosives (CBRNE) verification on ground-based elements. Civilian contract work includes selling neutrons, modeling radiation, and electronics testing in radiation environments. He is a storyteller, an Eagle Claw sensei, an excellent swordsman, and one of the world’s great experts on catching stuff on fire.

John Bradford, Ph.D
John E. Bradford, Ph.D is President of SpaceWorks Engineering in Atlanta, Georgia. SpaceWorks is an aerospace engineering concept design and systems analysis firm focusing on next-generation space transportation systems, future technologies, human and robotic exploration of space, and emerging space markets and applications. SEI’s advanced concept design and development work helps our customers envision the impact of future technologies, understand the feasibility of proposed space missions, and make strategic decisions regarding future markets. Dr. Bradford’s expertise is in systems integration, multidisciplinary optimization, and the design and assessment of future space systems. As President, Dr. Bradford oversees the day-to-day operations of the office, manages the engineering staff and task assignments, performs bid and proposal work for new efforts. He is the primary interface for all business with the Department of Defense and the corporate Facility Security Officer (FSO).

Upon joining the firm in 2001 as Director of Hypersonics, he served as Program Manager for numerous government-sponsored activities with NASA, the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL), and DARPA. In 2004, Dr. Bradford was named President of the Engineering Division. During that year, revenues at SpaceWorks exceeded $1M for the first time. Continuing that growth trend, corporate revenues have more than doubled since that time and the company opened an additional office location in Washington D.C. In 2011, SpaceWorks was named to the Inc. 500/5000 list as the second fastest growing engineering firm in Georgia.

As a Principal Engineer, his recent projects at SpaceWorks have included assessing heavy-lift configuration options for NASA’s SLS, technology road-mapping and prioritization for AFRL hypersonic systems, programmatic support to the Air Force’s Reusable Booster System (RBS) Pathfinder flight demonstrator program, design of hypersonic flight research vehicles (FRVs) for the Air Force, and independent concept analysis for the NASA-AFRL Joint Systems Study (JSS).

Prior to joining SpaceWorks, Dr. Bradford worked at both NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, AL and Aerojet in Sacramento, CA. His specific area of interest is in computational analysis and design of future systems using collaborative, automated engineering frameworks. Dr. Bradford has developed both disciplinary analysis tools as well as end-to-end concept simulation models spanning performance assessment through life-cycle cost.

Dr. Bradford received his Doctorate and Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At Georgia Tech, he was the recipient of a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP) Fellowship. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Minor in Computer Programming from North Carolina State University. He is a Senior Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a NASA Academy (NAAA) alumnus, on the Steering Committee and a judge for NASA’s RASC-AL student design competition, an alumni member of the AIAA High Speed Air-Breathing Technical Committee, and an Adjunct Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Scott G. Edgington, Ph.D
Scott Edgington, Ph.D Scott G. Edgington is the Cassini Deputy Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory whose research specialties are giant planets, spectroscopy, and photochemistry. He is the Investigation Scientist for the thermal infrared instrument on-board the Cassini spacecraft. He is a Science Planning Engineer for the Cassini Mission leading the Saturn Target Working Team.

Nick Eftimiades
Nicholas Eftimiades in an author and lecturer and lives in London, England. His career spans several US government agencies and hundreds of thousands of miles in Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Mr. Eftimiades authored books and number of scholarly articles on national security, technology, and outer space issues. His latest work is a political and philosophical satire entitled Edward of Planet Earth. It is a madcap adventure that spoofs modern life, from organized religion to the traffic control system. The story takes place 200 years in the future where Edward Temple, an ordinary person, is caught up in an zany world where self-aware super-computers are as argumentative, egotistical, demanding, and emotionally needy as the humans they serve. Everything is fair game as Edward navigates befuddled governments, psychotic software, greedy corporations, overly attentive robots, and romance.

Nick’s book Chinese Intelligence Operations, is an examination of the structure, operations, and methodology of the intelligence services of the People’s Republic of China. The book received worldwide recognition with the Chinese government declaring Eftimiades “an enemy of the people”. To date, it remains the only scholarly analysis of China’s intelligence services and operational methodology.

Nick is a frequent lecturer and public speaker on future technology and societal changes, and national security issues. He has appeared on CBS Evening News with Connie Chung, Dateline NBC, ABC’s Day One, BBC America, National Public Radio, dozens of other television and radio broadcasts, and podcasts. Eftimiades testified before several US Congressional and Presidential Commissions concerning National Security issues, future technology development, and the future of the US space program. His appearance on Reddit (AMA) was one of the most popular 100 of all time. He has been a consultant for several Hollywood movies.

Nick Eftimiades’ 29 year government career includes seven years at the National Security Space Office leading engineering teams designing “generation after next” national security space capabilities. He was also Senior Technical Officer in Defense Intelligence Agency, Future’s Division, and Chief of DIA’s Space Division. He served as DIA’s lead for national space policy and strategy development.

In his off time Mr. Eftimiades formed and oversees the Federation of Galaxy Explorers, a non-profit organization to educate and inspire children in space science and engineering. To date, Galaxy Explorers has educated and inspired over 25,000 children. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow teaching at King’s College, War Studies Department, London, UK. and a passionate amateur astronomer.


Stephen Fleming
Stephen Fleming has over ten years of private equity experience at the General Partner level. Prior to his venture capital career, he spent fifteen years in operations roles at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Nortel Networks, and LICOM (a venture-funded startup).

An Atlanta native and summa cum laude graduate of Georgia Tech, Stephen returned to his alma mater in mid-2005 as Chief Commercialization Officer. His appointment led a reorganization designed to streamline the handling of intellectual property, accelerate the licensing of technology, and make the Institute’s resources more readily accessible to business and industry.

Stephen is also active in the commercial space industry and is an investor in several private spaceship companies and is on the Board of Directors of XCOR. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Tech High School, a charter high school emphasizing science, math, and technology in urban Atlanta.


Pamela Gay, Ph.D
Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D, is an astronomer, writer, and podcaster focused on using new media to engage people in science and technology. She is most well known for Astronomy Cast, a podcast she co-hosts with Fraser Cain (Producer of Universe Today). Each week, Fraser and Pamela work to take their listeners on a facts-based journey through the cosmos that explores not only what we know about the universe, but how we know it. They are now entering their eighth year of production, and thanks to the constant new discoveries coming out of the Space Science communities, they have no plans stop recording any time soon.

Not satisfied to just teach people astronomy through Astronomy Cast, Pamela also works to engage people in doing science through the CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility, an online portal that invites the public to participate in NASA citizen science projects. Working in partnership with the number of different missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, she challenges every day people to help us map our solar system.

In addition to podcasting and building CosmoQuest, she also works to communicate astronomy to the public through and her blog StarStryder.com, through frequent public talks, and through popular articles. Her writing has appeared in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and Lightspeed magazines, and she has appeared on the TV show, The Universe.

A public school kid through and through, she received a B.S. in Astrophysics from Michigan State University in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Texas in 2002. Today, she teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Although her first research love was and remains variable stars, I have committed scientific adultery more than once to use my technology skills to explore the secrets of galaxy evolution, and planetary surface geology.

While it may seem that she either lives on campus or perhaps on planes, she actually live in a historic house in southern Illinois with her husband, two dogs, and a lot of gadgets. Whenever she can, she escapes to horseback ride on her thoroughbred, Ben.


Stephen Granade, Ph.D
Stephen Granade, Ph.D, is a physicist who specializes in quantum mechanics and in sensors for automatically guiding robot vehicles. His current research involves sensors to automatically guide unpiloted helicopters to the loads they need to pick up. This has nothing to do with Skynet, though it is disturbing to see helicopters flying around you without a human at the controls. He worked on a video-based sensor that helped guide the Space Shuttle to the Hubble Space Telescope. He also worked with NASA on the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor (AVGS), which measures the distance from a spacecraft to a target satellite so that the spacecraft can dock gently with the satellite. When AVGS was first tested on orbit as part of the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology mission, the sensor guided the spacecraft right to the satellite, where the two promptly collided. This worried NASA but made the Department of Defense very interested.

His Ph.D research was on trapping and cooling neutral atoms to nearly absolute zero by using really powerful lasers, vacuum systems, and a fair amount of Mountain Dew. During that research he only set fire to himself once, shocked himself twice, and still has two working eyes. He has won awards for presentations to non-scientist audiences and has provided scientific commentary for FoxNews.com, CBS Marketwatch, and Jalopnik.

In his spare time he is part of the Disasterpiece Theatre and WhatTheCast? podcasts, writes computer games, and is involved with DragonCon TV. He is featured in the interactive fiction documentary Get Lamp, and admits to being the guy pretending to be Jonathan Coulton in the “Re Your Brains” video.


Kevin Grazier, Ph.D
Kevin R. Grazier, Ph.D, is a writer/producer for The 50 Most Extreme Places in the Solar System, and the web series Stasys. He is also currently the science advisor on TNT’s Falling Skies, Syfy’s epic Defiance, and the summer blockbuster film Gravity. He formerly served as science advisor on Eureka, the Peabody-award-winning Battlestar Galactica, The Event, and several other series. He was the co-author of ‘The Science of Battlestar Galactica’, editor of ‘Hollywood Chemistry’, ‘The Science of Dune’, ‘The Science of Michael Crichton’, and ‘Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists’.

Grazier is a recovering rocket scientist, and spent 15 years on the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan. At JPL he wrote mission planning and analysis software that won both JPL- and NASA-wide awards. Still an active researcher, his research areas are numerical method development and long-term large-scale computer simulations of Solar System dynamics, evolution, and chaos.

Dr. Grazier is also very active in bringing the wonders of science and space to the public. He teaches classes in basic astronomy, planetary science, cosmology, the search for extraterrestrial life, and the science of science fiction, and has taught at UCLA, Santa Monica College, and College of the Canyons. He has appeared on several episodes of History Channel’s The Universe, National Geographic’s Naked Science, and he co-hosted the premiere episode of Discovery Channel’s Science Live! Kids’ Edition. He also co-anchored CNN’s all-day live coverage of the Cassini spacecraft’s Saturn orbit insertion with science correspondent Miles O’Brien. He also serves on multiple NASA educational product review panels.

In 2001 Dr. Grazier was named the first-ever honorary chairperson for Oakland University’s “Week of Champions” (homecoming) celebration, eight years later he won OU’s Odyssey Award given to the alumni whose life most typifies the university’s motto: To Seek Virtue and Knowledge.


Nicole Gugliucci, Ph.D
Nicole Gugliucci, Ph.D, is an astronomer, writer, educator, skeptic, maker-of-tiny-comets, and all around geek She has made it her mission to study and share the Universe. Known as the “NoisyAstronomer,” she earned a doctorate studying radio astronomy and now leads the informal education efforts of the citizen science project CosmoQuest.

Jennifer Kalmanson
Jennifer Kalmanson is a space systems engineer who’s worked missions as varied as demonstrating on-orbit satellite refueling, repairing Hubble, and encountering asteroids. A board member of the American Humanist Association and the Institute for Humanist Studies, she also performs weddings and funerals in her role as a Humanist Celebrant.

Phillip Kalmanson
Phillip Kalmanson is a Spacecraft Systems Architect currently working on in-space satellite servicing with NASA. He designed satellites and payloads for a variety of missions in Science, Exploration, Communications, and Defense. Phillip has always been a fan of science fiction and uses it for inspiration in his professional life.

William Keel, Ph.D
Bill Keel, Ph.D, is a University of Alabama astronomer, with research interests encompassing the sweep of cosmic evolution. The move of astronomy to increased reliance on spaceborne facilities has come to mingle these research goals with particular concern for spacecraft and the development of space technology. He has been fortunate enough to obtain data using many space-based as well as ground-based instruments. He has been called on to participate in the NASA proposal reviews for the Hubble Space Telescope (5 times now) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as mission concepts and extensions for astrophysics satellites.

Keel’s book The Sky at Einstein’s Feet celebrated the penetrating role that the insights of relativity have played in the last century of astronomical discovery. His next major writing effort traces the history of astronomy from space in its political as well as scientific and technological aspects. His latest research coup has involved the GalaxyZoo public-participation sky survey.

Keel has appeared at nine DragonCons, on topics ranging from the first appearance of stars in the infant Universe to comparison of robotic versus astronaut options for servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. Since 2007 he has run Live Astronomy overnight sessions for Space Track, using remotely operated telescopes in Arizona and Chile; one of these was described by a blogger in attendance as run by “the science teacher you always wished you had”. He was a writer on a 2010 and 2012 NASA-funded print and webcomics, each premiered at DragonCon, and has gone as far afield as Cuba to promote public understanding of the Universe.


Roy Kilgard, Ph.D
Roy Kilgard, Ph.D, is an astrophysicist and Assistant Professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, who researches black holes in nearby galaxies with an emphasis on intermediate-mass black holes: an enigmatic class of objects whose origins are unclear. When not studying the heavens, he lectures on astronomy in science fiction and pop culture.

Michael J. Laine
Michael Laine has dedicated the past 12 years to moving humanity to the stars. He’ll accomplish this by taking the first baby-step; by building an Elevator on the Moon as a precursor to building Earth’s Elevator. Originally started as part of a NASA research project, his company LiftPort, has grown the idea into a global program.

Michael Laine’s 5th grade vice-principal knew he was a ‘troublemaker’ when he directed Laine to look up the word “insubordinate”. To him, the world has never looked the same, since. That quality was honed and refined in the U. S. Marine Corp, affording Laine both a meritorious promotion by seeking out problems and solving them, and also almost losing his rank by getting in an argument over safety and inappropriate protocol. (Laine won.) Continuing his non-conformist streak led him into the investment field where he was entrusted with and successfully managed ~$4M in assets in the then-contrarian arena of international holdings. Being immersed in the capital markets, infrastructure development and expanding on certain globalist philosophies led him eventually to Boston University’s international business program and later to create a not-very-successful internet company. Through it all, he was accidentally successful in real estate management and development. This unexpected resource allowed him to refine and fuel his deep, long-held, interest in ‘space commercialization’. Laine was invited to participate in NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts research team, first as an external consultant, and later to lead a global program to build Earth’s Space Elevator. Laine’s team at LiftPort pioneered efforts in the science of carbon nanotubes, and hold records for the highest robotic climbs in the world; they have discovered new alloys and are pursuing technology in radio communications.

Laine has published several papers, and co-authored or edited a number of fiction and non-fiction books on the topics of space technology, computing, human spaceflight, robotics and operational management. Laine (and more importantly the Project) has been featured hundreds of times: from CNN & BBC to Ridley Scott’s Prophets of Science Fiction; from the New York Times & Globe and Mail to the Wall Street Journal; from Popular Science & Wired to Newsweek & National Geographic. Finally, Laine is a sought-after speaker for events global and large to local and intimate. Laine is equally comfortable in an imperial palace in Vienna (with an audience of 2500), or in front of 500 cadets at the US Air Force Academy, or giving a guest lecture to Harvard’s MBA class or simply talking about the wonders of space to a community astronomy club.

“There is a profound difference between ‘difficult’, ‘very very hard’, and ‘impossible’. Knowing the difference will change you… and the world.”


Erin MacDonald, Ph.D
Erin Macdonald, Ph.D., is a tattooed astrophysicist working at Cardiff University doing research in gravitational waves for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. She also is a STEM Ambassador and aims to demonstrate to the public how unique physicists can be.

Mika McKinnon
On the sets of Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate: Universe, Mika McKinnon was variously called Astrophysicist, Mathematics Technician, and Scientist until eventually earning the title Rocket Surgeon for her work scrawling equations on behalf of the great Dr. Rodney McKay and establishing plausible phenomena to threaten the hapless Destiny. Currently, she alternates between gleefully establishing that truth makes for far stranger fiction for projects still within the veil of not-yet-aired secrecy, and tromping around in the mud with high-voltage geophysical equipment.

Sarah Milkovich, Ph.D
Sarah Milkovich, Ph.D, is a planetary geologist and a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Sarah works on spacecraft science operations, at the point where science and engineering meet. Sarah is currently the Investigation Scientist for the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, where she represents the far-flung HiRISE science team to the JPL-based spacecraft management; keeps the lines of communication between scientists, instrument operators, and spacecraft engineers open; and works on spacecraft science operations.

Sarah is also the science operations systems engineer for Mars Science Laboratory (the Curiosity rover), where she focuses on maintaining and improving the science planning process and supporting the science team as they plan the rover’s daily activities. She has won JPL and NASA team awards for her efforts to return the best possible science within spacecraft engineering constraints.

Sarah received her B.S. in planetary science from Caltech, and her M. Sc. and Ph.D. from Brown University in planetary geology with studies of mountain glaciers and polar deposits on Mars, and volcanism on Mercury. She joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2005 as a postdoctoral research fellow, studying martian ice deposits using images, radar, and topography. From childhood, she had dreamed of working on spacecraft, and was thrilled to be hired in 2008 as a science planning systems engineer. Sarah was a member of the surface operations team for Mars Phoenix during the summer of 2008, and the Cassini-Huygens Mission science planning team from 2008-2012. Sarah’s scientific research continues to focus on the geological history of the polar deposits of Mars.


Sam Ortega
Sam Ortega has been with NASA for 25 years working on everything from the space shuttle solid rocket motors to microgravity science research and is now focused on reaching out to technical communities outside of NASA for unique solutions to NASA’s technology barriers.

Phil Plait, Ph.D
Phil Plait, Ph.D started out as a professional astronomer, but has switched careers a half dozen times, from astronomer to public outreach guy for several NASA satellites to author of two books (Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!) to professional blogger – his Bad Astronomy blog is one of the most popular science blogs in the world – to professional skeptic as President of the James Randi Educational Foundation to public speaker and TV science documentary guy.

“Blogger” is the one that’s stuck, mostly because of the lack of a pants wearing requirement.

He’s a huge and unabashed fanboy and geek, loving Doctor Who, Stargate, Star Trek, MST3K, and pretty much anything with spaceships and aliens, written or televised.


Stephen W. Ramsden
Stephen W. Ramsden is the founder and director of the worlds largest Solar Astronomy outreach program. Mr. Ramsden is a full time Air Traffic Controller in Atlanta, GA. The Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project is currently active in 13 countries and sees well over 100,000 students and adults per year in order to highlight solar phenomena through narrowband, observatory quality telescopes and imaging equipment. Mr. Ramsden has been published in may major science periodicals including National Geographic and Sky and Telescope magazines. Mr. Ramsden lectures across the country on Solar Astronomy and community outreach.

Trina Ray
Trina Ray started her career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory with a bang. Her first and still favorite experience was working on the Voyager Neptune Encounter in August of 1989. In her current position – Titan Orbiter Science Team (TOST) co-chair – she coordinates all the Titan science opportunities for the Cassini Mission. She is also the Group Supervisor of the Science Planning Systems Group at JPL, which provides people and processes to integrate, implement, and execute science plans for instruments and missions at JPL.

Trina received her Bachelor’s degree in Physics from California State University, Northridge, and her master’s degree in Astronomy from San Diego State University, where her research specialty was Planetary Nebulae. She has received numerous awards, including a NASA medal for Exceptional Service.

Trina is an active public speaker for NASA, JPL, and Cassini and a founding member of the Cassini Virtual Singers: a group of project staff that rewrites lyrics to popular melodies and performs at various Project and Laboratory functions.


Kimberly Steadman
Kim Steadman received both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech. After graduate school, Kim started her career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has worked on several different projects at JPL including X2000, Mars Exploration Rover Mission and Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn.

Since December 2000, Kim has worked on the Cassini mission. Her first job on Cassini was as a Mission Planner, and then she moved to the Science Planning team where she was a sequence lead and joined the Titan Orbiter Science Team (TOST) doing Titan flyby integration. Currently she splits time between the TOST group as a Science Planner and the Spacecraft Office as a Systems Engineer.

As a Flight Systems Engineer, Kim is a member of the Cassini spacecraft office whose job is to ensure the health and safety of the spacecraft. She reviews sequence files before they are sent to the spacecraft to make sure they meet the science and engineering requirements and ensure that no flight rules are broken. Another part of her job involves development, implementation, and execution of maneuvers on the spacecraft. This means she creates commands that tell Cassini to fire her engines and then monitors the telemetry as it arrives at JPL to make sure everything went well. She also supports TOST by integrating science and engineering activities for Titan flybys.

Kim was the primary author on a 2010 SpaceOps paper titled “Cassini Titan Science Integration: Getting a ‘Jumpstart’ on the Process”.