April 16, 2019

NASA, space leaders to discuss human space exploration

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What will it take for the U.S. to return to the moon and send humans to Mars and beyond?

These are a couple of the topics that will be discussed at the “What IF We Blaze a Path to Mars?” public forum on space policy on April 25.

A panel discussion will feature Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations; Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; and Jonathan Lunine, planetary scientist at Cornell University. Purdue President Mitch Daniels is moderating the event, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse. 

The event is a part of Purdue University’s Ideas Festival, the centerpiece of Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign, which is a series of events that connect world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems facing the world. One of the Ideas Festival’s themes is Giant Leaps in Space.

Gerstenmaier, who is based at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., provides strategic direction for all aspects of NASA’s human exploration of space and cross-agency space support functions of space communications and space launch vehicles. He provides programmatic direction for the operation and utilization of the International Space Station and its crew; is leading development of the Gateway, Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule; and is providing strategic guidance and direction for the commercial crew and cargo programs.​​ Working with commercial and international partners, NASA plans to lead a sustainable return to the surface of the moon. He received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue in 1977 and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo in 1981. He completed course work early in his career for a doctorate in dynamics and control with emphasis in propulsion at Purdue.

Dittmar is a member of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and the Department of Transportation’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Group. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is a diverse industry trade group of more than 65 companies engaged in human exploration, science and commerce in deep space. Dittmar’s previous experience includes managing flight operations for The Boeing Co. on the International Space Station program, where she later served as Boeing chief scientist for commercial payloads. She later served as senior adviser for the International Space Station’s function as a national laboratory.

Lunine is the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science. He is interested in how planets form and evolve, what processes maintain and establish habitability, and what kinds of exotic environments might host a kind of chemistry sophisticated enough to be called life. He works with the radar and other instruments on Cassini, continues to work on mass spectrometer data from Huygens, and is co-investigator on the Juno mission launched in 2011 to Jupiter. He is on the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, focusing on characterization of extrasolar planets and Kuiper Belt objects. Lunine is principal investigator for a Jet Propulsion Laboratory-led study to send a probe into Saturn's atmosphere and has contributed to mission concept studies for space-based astrometry and microlensing missions. Lunine is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has participated in or chaired a number of advisory and strategic planning committees for the Academy and for NASA, including "Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration," which he co-chaired in 2014 with Daniels.  

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: David Spencer, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, 765-494-8774, dspencer@purdue.edu

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