NASA Archive

Kevin Rice – Former Director of Business Management for Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works and NASA JPL

January 20, 2022 @ 2:47 pm

In this episode:

We meet Kevin Rice who spent 40 years in the aerospace industry, roughly split between Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). At Skunk Works Kevin served as Director of Business Management, where his responsibilities included management of several hundred employees in the execution of budgeting, scheduling, proposal development, cost estimating and pricing, contracts, and risk management. His work supported tactical aircraft projects including the F-117, F-22, and F-35, as well as reconnaissance projects such as the U-2, SR-71, various C-130 projects, and the sub-scale X-33 reusable launch vehicle.


Following that, and until his retirement in 2019, Kevin worked for NASA JPL, as a Division Manager and Director of Project Business Management for NASA’s research and development centers. Kevin developed, implemented and maintained JPL’s project controls processes, and created JPL’s business policies and practices manual (the “Dark Green Book”), which served as a model for business throughout NASA. He also developed the independent assessment model adopted by NASA to assess project performance. From 1992 to the present, Kevin has served as adjunct professor of Corporate Finance, International Business, and Global Financial Management at the University of Redlands.


In our conversation, Kevin discusses how he budgeted costs and set timelines for massive aerospace projects, established risk evaluation and management controls, what it was like maintaining constant discretion on classified projects, details on Skunk Works’ X-33 reusable launch vehicle program with NASA, and his experiences riding the annual Federal appropriations rollercoaster.


Discussing his own personal commandments for business management, Kevin says, “It’s about understanding the trends — what are the facts, what is the relationship between facts — that’s analysis. Assessment is, ‘What do I do with that information?’” You know, what is the risk attendant to that? How reasonable is it? What are some of the alternatives that we can apply to some of that?”


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

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Steven Hawley — Former NASA Astronaut, Hubble Space Telescope & Chandra X-ray Observatory Missions

December 15, 2021 @ 4:30 pm

In this episode:

We meet Dr. Steven Hawley, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas, and former NASA astronaut who’s flown on five Space Shuttle missions. In those missions, Hawley had major roles in the deployment and later upkeep of the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.


In our conversation, Dr. Hawley discusses the first telescope he owned, the 1991 Hubble Space Telescope deployment mission, his role in its deployment, why it initially didn’t operate as intended, what it’s told us about our universe, his later role in the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and his thoughts on the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.


In describing his first space mission deploying the bus-sized Hubble in 1991, Hawley says, “My job was to operate the arm to grasp the telescope, lift it out of the payload bay, and release it. Well, that sounds simple enough on the surface. It actually was quite complicated, and there were a lot of ‘what-ifs’ that we had to think about.”


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

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Dorit Donoviel — Director, Translational Research Institute for Space Health

December 8, 2021 @ 9:07 am

In this episode:

We meet Dr. Dorit Donoviel, director of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). She is also director of the Biomedical Innovation Laboratory and associate professor of Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Donoviel’s work revolves around performing research and developing strategies aimed at reducing health and safety risks to astronauts in long-duration space missions. She has received numerous awards for her work, including NASA’s Group Achievement Award for work as a member of the Executive Steering Committee for “The Impact of Sex and Gender on Adaptation to Space,” a collection of six scientific articles published in The Journal of Women's Health.

In our conversation Donoviel discusses how her career in the space ecosystem began, what inspired her to do the research she does, changes that occur in the human body in space, how space health includes both physical and behavioral health, the TRISH-sponsored research conducted by the civilian crew on the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission, and her thoughts on the importance of mentorship.

Explaining the importance of racial and gender diversity in tracking the health of humans in space, Donoviel says, “You go back to the Sixties; we’ve been in space for 60 years… Roughly 530-something-odd people have been to space. That’s like 10 a year. And as a biologist — as a person who studies particularly humans — you need more than that! You need a lot more people. And you need diversity in your sample.”

To learn more about TRISH, visit

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

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Homer Hickam – Bestselling Author

October 18, 2021 @ 3:31 pm

In this episode:

We meet Homer Hickam, author of the No. 1 New York Times bestselling memoir Rocket Boys and its ever-popular movie adaptation, October SkyRocket Boys is the story of a young man and his friends in Coalwood, West Virginia, who, inspired by the space age, started building and launching rockets, which was just the beginning of a fantastic career that eventually took Homer to NASA. Since he published that first book, he has written more than a dozen fictional and nonfictional bestsellers.

On October 26, Hickam will release a new follow-up memoir to Rocket Boys titled Don't Blow Yourself Up. This story includes tales of his life and times during the next 40 years that take the reader to college, Vietnam, underwater, NASA, and to remote locations looking for dinosaur bones.

In our conversation, Hickam details his memoir writing process, what it was like to pioneer the infamous Virginia Tech Skipper game cannon, his time at NASA, meeting Elon Musk at adult Space Camp, becoming an avid amateur paleontologist, and why he would be considered an old Grinch on a suborbital flight.


In discussing whether he is an actual Renaissance man, Homer says, “I wonder if the people during the actual Renaissance thought of themselves as Renaissance people — I don’t think you know that until you look back. I love the idea of having an adventure in my life and, and when it’s presented to me, I just grab it, and I just go with it, and I just want to make it happen so much.”

To learn more about Homer Hickam and his newest book, Don't Blow Yourself Up, visit


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

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Frank Culbertson — former NASA astronaut, “The only US citizen not on Earth when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred”

September 9, 2021 @ 9:02 am

In this episode:

We meet CAPT Frank Lee Culbertson, Jr., USN (Ret.), a former American Naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aerospace engineer, NASA astronaut, and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He served as the Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) for almost four months in 2001, giving him the distinction of being the only U.S. citizen not on Earth when the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks occurred. As the ISS passed over New York City after the attacks, he captured impactful photos and video from low Earth orbit of the smoke emanating from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.


You can read a letter he wrote detailing the complex emotions he experienced that day at


Culbertson’s achievements are too numerous to list completely here. He served in the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, and later as a Naval aviator, Culbertson flew aircraft with the U.S. Air Force in the 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where he served as Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Culbertson then served as the Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer for USS John F. Kennedy until he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, from which he graduated with distinction in 1982. He has logged over 9,500 hours flying time in 60 different types of aircraft.


Frank was selected for and completed NASA astronaut training in 1985. He’s a veteran of three space flights: STS-38 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis (Nov. 1990), STS-51 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery (Sept. 1993), and as part of the ISS Expedition 3 crew (launched via STS-105 on Space Shuttle Discovery, Aug. 2001). Culbertson lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for a total of 129 days on that mission and commanded the ISS for 117 of those days.


Culbertson recently retired as President of the Space Systems Group at Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and currently consults for several aerospace companies. He’s also on the Board of Advisors of Bye Aerospace, the Board of Trustees of the AIAA, the Board of Directors of Firefly Black Aerospace, and is Member at Large on the Space Foundation Board of Directors. He remains an active pilot and is president of his own company, Higher Flight LLC.


In this episode, Frank recalls his day on the ISS on Sept. 11, 2001, how he received information about the attacks in bits and pieces as the day unfolded, the loss of his friend Capt. Charles “Chic” Burlingame (pilot of Flight 77 which terrorists crashed into the Pentagon that day), and how much the world had changed by the time he returned to Earth three months later.


Detailing his memories of taking photos aboard the ISS that morning, Culbertson says, “So, it made it easy to zoom in with the camera and look at what was happening. And as I zoomed in ... a big gray blob enveloped Southern Manhattan, and ... I found out later what I was seeing was the second tower come down.”


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space Foundation, Space4U, NASA, Astronaut · Comments

Daniel Lockney – NASA Technology Transfer Program

July 14, 2021 @ 10:07 am

In this episode:

We meet Daniel Lockney, the Technology Transfer Program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. NASA has a long history of finding new and innovative uses for its space and aeronautical technologies, and Lockney is the agency’s leading authority on those technologies and their practical applications on Earth. 


Daniel is responsible for agency-level management of NASA intellectual property and the transfer of NASA technology to the public. In this role, Lockney oversees policy, strategy, resources, and direction for the agency’s technology commercialization efforts.


In our conversation, Lockney explains how the Technology Transfer office bridges the gap between space technology and our needs on Earth, how space technology impacts Earth’s economy, and some of the most interesting secondary applications of space technologies he’s seen.


Describing the significant uptick in commercial applications of NASA-developed technologies, Daniel says, “Over the past decade, a quintupling of the amount of commercialization we've typically seen from NASA... Our patent licensing is through the roof. You know, we used to average about 20, 25 patents licensed per year — now we're hitting 150 to 175 easily.”


To learn more about the Technology Transfer Program at NASA, visit


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © Copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space Foundation, Space4U, NASA, Space Technology · Comments

Jonathan Gardner – Deputy Senior Project Scientist, James Webb Space Telescope

February 25, 2021 @ 7:35 pm

In this episode:

We meet Dr. Jonathan Gardner, the Deputy Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope and the Chief of the Laboratory for Observational Cosmology in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard. He received his bachelor’s degree in Astronomy in Astrophysics from Harvard University, and then attended graduate school at the University of Hawaii, earning a master’s degree and a PhD in Astronomy. He began working on Webb as a member of the Ad-Hoc Science Working Group in the late 1990s, and then joined the project as the Deputy Senior Project Scientist in 2002.


The James Webb Space Telescope project began in 1996 and is currently scheduled for launch on October 31, 2021. It will be the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built and launched into space — 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, and it promises to fundamentally alter our understandings of the universe. The telescope is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, and with an almost $10 billion price tag it's one of the most expensive space missions in history.


In our conversation, Dr. Gardner explains how Webb will be able to see the first light created in the universe after the big bang 13.5 billion years ago, how it will create a 3D model of our universe together with Hubble, how it’ll have the capability to detect signs of life in the atmospheres of 300+ exoplanets, and he tells us when the public will begin to see images of what Webb is observing.


Sharing what he's looking forward to most about the mission, Gardner says, “I’m most excited about the fact that whenever we put up a new capability that is a hundred times better than anything that’s happened before ... we find discoveries that we really were not expecting.”


To learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope, visit


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space, Space Foundation, Space4U, NASA, Space Technology, Telescope · Comments

Lori Garver & Courtney Stadd — Former Presidential Transition Staff Members

January 13, 2021 @ 9:13 am

In this episode:


Space4U welcomes two veterans of presidential transitions to discuss the process and how it relates to the U.S. space program. For a balanced perspective, we’re joined by former transition staff members from both Democratic and Republican administrations.


Lori Garver served as NASA’s Deputy Administrator during the Obama Administration from 2009–2013, as well as during the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy and Planning. For the latter half of 2008 into early 2009, Ms. Garver served as the lead for the Obama Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for NASA. She’s a veteran of Capitol Hill, the commercial space industry, various campaigns, an advisor to numerous groups and space organizations, and she founded the Brooke Owens Fellowship to promote diversity in the aviation and space exploration communities for female college undergrads.


Courtney Stadd served as NASA’s Chief of Staff and White House Liaison during the George W. Bush Administration. He’s also a veteran of the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, where he served at the National Space Council and later NASA. For the latter half of 2008 into 2009, he served as the lead of the George W. Bush Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for NASA. He is also a veteran of the commercial space industry, having been an entrepreneur, business development officer, and program leader for several enterprises.


In our conversation, Lori and Courtney discuss how a transition takes place, the elements involved, the different players on a transition team and what they do, how transition teams cooperate, what an incoming administration seeks to achieve during a transition, and more.


Note: This conversation was recorded prior to the events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 – events that would certainly have impacted the discussion. Although this recording predates those events, the collateral effects they will have on the Presidential transition remain to be seen.


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

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Sarah Noble – NASA Program Scientist, Psyche Mission

December 9, 2020 @ 10:34 am

In this episode:


We meet Dr. Sarah Noble, a planetary geologist at NASA headquarters and the Program Scientist for the Psyche mission. She was previously the Program Scientist for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, and the Deputy Program Scientist for Mars 2020. In addition to her involvement with Psyche, she is currently the Program Scientist for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).


Psyche was only the sixteenth asteroid identified when it was discovered in 1852. It is roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts and resides in the solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It’s thought to be the exposed remnant core of a protoplanet — a planet that began to form, but then lost its outer layers due to collisions that occurred billions of years ago. Unlike most asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, it is believed that Psyche is composed mostly of iron and nickel (similar to the Earth’s core), which is why the Psyche mission spacecraft will be studying an asteroid more than 300 million miles away to learn more about our home planet’s core.


In this episode, Sara explains her role in the Psyche mission, what phase the mission is currently in, why we think we know what the asteroid is composed of, the spacecraft’s instruments and propulsion, how long the mission will take to complete, and much more.


For more information about the Psyche mission, visit and


To view the Psyche-inspired artwork Sarah mentioned in the episode, visit, and for information on submitting your own artwork, go to


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © copyright 2015, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space, Space Foundation, Space4U, NASA · Comments

Aaron Shepard – NASA Robotics Intern & Founder of Cogito

September 2, 2020 @ 8:34 am

In this episode:


We meet Aaron Shepard, an In Space Assembly Robotics Intern at NASA Langley, and a Robotics Research Assistant at Clemson University College of Engineering and Science. Aaron also works at R&D Engineering Co-Op, Itron, Inc., and is the Founder/CEO of Cogito, a company dedicated to inspiring young people through STEM outreach.


He is affiliated with the Mars Generation, an international nonprofit organization that works to excite people of all ages about science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and human space exploration, and is currently a member of the organization's Student Space Ambassador Leadership Board, where he serves as chair of the outreach committee. He works as a tutor and mentor for the PEER & WISE program at Clemson, which helps to give underrepresented students studying STEM subjects the resources and tools they need to follow their dreams of STEM and space, and he has also given a TEDx talk entitled Make America Space Again.


In this conversation Aaron talks about what inspired him to switch from his initial career path of medicine to robotics, gives details on how he got into his internship at NASA, shares his thoughts on the future of robots in space exploration, touches on his company Cogito, describes his favorite robot project that he’s currently working on, and explains how he thinks international cooperation will help achieve our goals in space.


In describing how robots will eventually build human habitats on other planets, Aaron says, “I’d say we’re within a 20-year range of having fully autonomous robot construction crew in space ... I think that’s possible.”


To learn more about Aaron’s new company Cogito, visit


Note: This episode refers to the successful July 30, 2020 launch of the Perseverance Mars Rover and Ingenuity helicopter in future tense because the podcast was recorded on July 23, 2020.


Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space, Space Foundation, Space4U, STEM Education, NASA, Space Technology, robotics · Comments

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