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Key Note Speakers


Clayton P. Turner

NASA Langley Director

Opening Session


    Clayton Turner is the Director of NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. He leads a diverse group of civil servant and contractor scientists, researchers, engineers and support staff, who work to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, develop new technologies for space exploration, and contribute to NASA’s broader exploration mission.
    Mr. Turner has served the agency for more than 30 years. He has held several roles at NASA Langley, including systems engineer, Chief Engineer, Engineering Director, Associate Center Director, and Deputy Center Director.
    After graduation from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1990, Turner began his career with NASA serving as a design engineer with the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment project, where he spearheaded development of the laser aligning, bore-sight limit system.
    Mr. Turner has received many prestigious awards such as the Presidential Rank Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, the Paul F. Holloway Non-Aerospace Technology Transfer Award, and RIT’s College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni award. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and he is also a member of the RIT Board of Trustees.

Dr. Kurt Vogel

Associate Administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate

Opening Session

    Dr. Kurt “Spuds” Vogel is the associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, a position he has served since Jan. 16, 2024. In this role, he oversees executive leadership, strategic planning, and management of all technology maturation and demonstration programs executed under the directorate’s $1.2 billion budget.

    Before leading STMD, Vogel served as director of space architectures within the Office of the Administrator. Arriving at NASA in July 2021, he led multiple space architecture efforts, including the development of the Moon to Mars Strategy and Objectives, forming the agency’s ⁠blueprint for long-term, human-led scientific discovery in deep space. He also served as chair of NASA’s Agency Cross-Directorate Federated Board, whose purpose is to ensure NASA’s focus is integrated with common strategic goals and direction across the agency’s mission directorates.   

    Vogel has more than 34 years of U.S. government service, primarily in the Defense Department, as a technical leader, senior program manager, and chief technologist.

    Prior to joining NASA, Vogel served six years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), leading innovative research across a portfolio of classified, state-of-the-art, high-risk programs spanning multiple DARPA offices.

From 2008 until 2015, Vogel led research and development at the Air Force Research Lab’s Systems Technology Office, where he directed a Defense Department science and technology portfolio. He also served as the acting chief technologist for the National Reconnaissance Office’s Survivability Assurance Office.

    Vogel retired from active duty in 2010 after serving in the air and space domains during a 21-year career as an officer in the United States Air Force. During his service, he led the USAF Red Team and served as chief technology officer for the Next Generation Bomber program. Vogel also is an Air Force Test Pilot School graduate, having flown over 40 different aircraft as a flight test engineer and civilian pilot.

    He holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science in astronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy. He is a member of the national engineering and aerospace engineering honor societies.

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Shannon Fitzpatrick

Associate Director for Flight Programs, Planetary Science Division

NASA Science Mission Directorate

Opening Session

Shannon Fitzpatrick is the Associate Director for Flight Programs, Planetary Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). In this role, she oversees planning and coordination for Planetary projects through every phase of the mission life cycle and collaborates with interagency and international partners for the successful execution of these missions.


Ms. Fitzpatrick previously served as the Assistant Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.  In this position she was responsible for supporting the program management and success of the entire SMD mission portfolio across multiple science disciplines.  She monitored, tracked, facilitated, and communicated program/project performance of the SMD flight portfolio throughout the mission life cycle, ensuring communication and/or compliance of Federal/Agency/SMD policies, practices, and processes both within the Directorate and to NASA senior leadership.  Before her role as SMD ADAAP, Shannon served as a NASA Program Executive within the Science Mission Directorate/Heliophysics Division.  As a Program Executive she was the programmatic and technical authority in the management and administration of complex NASA aerospace programs. 


Prior to joining the SMD team at NASA HQ, Ms. Fitzpatrick served as the Chief of NASA Wallop’s Range and Mission Management Office, NASA’s only owned and operated launch range.  As the Range Chief she led the management and technical readiness of the Wallops Research Range, including Project Management, launch operations, aeronautical testing and oversight of Range instrumentation systems and personnel, as well as serving as the interface to outside agencies, organizations and state and federal government.   Ms. Fitzpatrick was the first female Range Chief at NASA’s own launch range. 


Ms. Fitzpatrick also has experience as a Branch Head for the Guidance, Navigation & Control Systems and Mission Systems Engineering Branch at NASA Goddard and as a project manager for the Wallops Range, leading and directing range operations on many suborbital sounding rocket missions, and ELV missions, including Antares to the ISS and missions to the Moon.   Shannon began her career with the US Navy, serving as an Aerospace Engineer working on rocket propulsion systems, including hypersonic system development and systems utilized on the Space Shuttle, as well as doing aeronautical testing on Navy aircraft.  She holds several patents in hypersonic propulsion technology from her time with the Navy.  She then moved into private industry and developed her project management skills leading large teams of engineers developing rocket Attitude Control Systems for the critical national priority of the Missile Defense Agency’s Standard Missile 3.  Shannon brings over 25 years of experience in Engineering, Leadership and Project and Program Management and holds both Bachelors and Master of Science degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, with a focus in Propulsion and Dynamics.  Shannon has also been the recipient of numerous NASA, DoD, and private industry awards throughout her career. 

Dr. Orson Sutherland

Mars Exploration Group Leader

Exploration Chief Scientist

Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration

European Space Agency

Opening Session

     Dr Sutherland is the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Programme Manager for Mars Exploration and acting Exploration Chief Scientist. In this leadership role, he is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive review of ESA's scientific approach to space exploration. He manages key projects such as ExoMars, with its Trace Gas Orbiter active since 2017, and the forthcoming Rosalind Franklin Mission, an exobiology rover scheduled for launch in 2028 in collaboration with NASA. Dr Sutherland also leads ESA’s contributions to the Mars Sample Return programme, specifically overseeing the Earth Return Orbiter and the Sample Transfer Arm projects, and is driving the development of ESA’s strategic vision and implementation plan for future Mars exploration.

     Prior to his current appointment, Dr Sutherland was Project Manager for the Earth Return Orbiter. He previously served as Engineering Manager for ESA’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury, in partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). His expertise in electric propulsion was essential in developing advanced propulsion systems, such as the 12 kW class EP system used on BepiColombo and the forthcoming 35 kW EP system for the Mars Sample Return Earth Return Orbiter. With over two decades in the space sector, Dr Sutherland has led the design, procurement, and management of numerous flight systems for deep space exploration, collaborating extensively with both NASA and JAXA.


     Dr Sutherland earned his PhD in plasma physics and ion optics from the Australian National University, with research interests focusing on helicon and ion cyclotron waves, high-density plasma sources, high-brightness plasma ion sources, and low-noise ion optics. His scholarly work in fundamental physics has yielded numerous journal articles, and his applied research has led to the development of several patents for the extraction of high-brightness ion beams, which have become integral in laboratories worldwide.

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Will Bruey

Co-Founder and CEO of Varda Space Industries

Opening/Earth Return Session

     Will is CEO and Co-Founder of Varda Space Industries, whose space factories leverage the unique environment of microgravity in low-Earth orbit. Prior to Varda, Will co-founded a small venture fund called Also Capital, served as Director of Global Equities Technology at Bank of America, and co-founded Second Order Effects, an engineering services company. He was the lead avionics engineer at SpaceX and flew Dragon on eight missions to the International Space Station. Will holds a B.S. in Applied Physics from Cornell and a master's in Systems Engineering. He was raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and his hobbies include flying and maintaining his Cozy MK4 aircraft.


Dr. Stephanie Getty

Director of the Solar System Exploration Division, NASA GSFC

Venus Session

    Dr. Stephanie Getty is a planetary research scientist and the Director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  Since joining Goddard in 2004, she has contributed to the advancement of instrument technology, planetary measurement techniques, numerous mission concepts, and the development of the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover. She is the Deputy Principal Investigator of the DAVINCI mission to Venus.  She is enthusiastic about the study of planetary habitability and the signatures that can reveal the astrobiological potential of past or present environments in our solar system. 


    As Director of the Solar System Exploration at NASA Goddard, she oversees a diverse team of approximately 300 planetary scientists, with expertise including sample return science, planetary astronomy across the solar system and beyond, planetary magnetospheres, planetary geology and geophysics, the study of planetary environments and composition, and exploration science in support of Artemis and Moon to Mars.  She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a NASA Agency Honor Group Achievement Award, a NASA Silver Achievement Medal, and a Robert H. Goddard Honor Award.  She has organized several workshops and conference sessions in planetary science, astrobiology, and instrument technology.  She holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Florida.

Masaki Fujimoto

Deputy Director General of ISAS/JAXA

Mars Session

    Dr. Masaki Fujimoto is Deputy Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS/JAXA). He joined JAXA in 2006 as a Professor of the Department of Solar System Sciences. He joined Hayabusa2 sample return capsule recovery operation in Australia (December 2020) to support the activity under COVID-19. He is also one of the founders of the Martian Moons Exploration (MMX) mission, a mission under construction to return samples from Phobos, one of the Martian moons.

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Carolyn Mercer

Chief Technologist for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

Aerocapture, Entry, Descent & Landing Session

     Dr. Carolyn Mercer is the Chief Technologist for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Prior to that she was the founding leader of the Planetary Exploration Science Technology Office and the Lead Program Executive for the SIMPLEx rideshare program for planetary science. Dr. Mercer began her career as a research engineer developing optical techniques to measure fluid properties in propulsion facilities at the Glenn Research Center and supervised a highly skilled group of scientists and engineers developing similar technologies. As a project manager she helped develop a broad portfolio of aerospace technologies, including technologies to explore icy moons, advanced scientific instruments, flexible solar arrays, energy storage systems, and adaptive engine technologies. She holds two patents in optical instrumentation and has received numerous awards including the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement, NASA Glenn Outstanding Leadership Award, and NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal.


Erica Montbach


Science, Instruments, Experiments, and In-Situ Measurements Session

   Dr. Erica Montbach is the Manager of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s  Planetary Exploration Science Technology Office (PESTO) where she leads the team that develops the technology investment strategy for future planetary science missions, manages all pre-mission planetary science technology development, coordinates with other technology development programs, and infuses technology into planetary science.

   Prior to headquarters, Dr. Montbach developed solutions for a sustained presence on the Moon including enabling materials, equipment, and supplies that can withstand the harsh lunar dust along with generating fuel and other consumables from local resources, as part of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technologies. In addition, she worked in industry for 18 years.

Kathleen Mandt

Planetary Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Ice Giants & Gas Giants Session

   KATHLEEN E. MANDT is a planetary scientist working in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Planetary Systems Laboratory. She previously served as the Chief Scientist for Exoplanets and as the Astrobiology Section Manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Kathy's research covers a broad range of topics including the origin and evolution of volatiles throughout the solar system and the role of dynamics, chemistry and atmospheric evolution in understanding this. Previously, Mandt was an adjoint professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a senior research scientist at Southwest Research Institute. She has served in several community and NASA mission leadership roles, including as the volatiles theme lead for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission and the project scientist for the LRO Lyman Alpha Mapping Project instrument. She previously served as a member of the steering committee of the Outer Planets Assessment Group as well as the Division for Planetary Science Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee. She was project scientist for the Io Volcano Observer phase A study, the deputy project scientist for the Heliophysics Division-funded Interstellar Probe pre-decadal mission study, and is a science team member on the Europa Clipper Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding teams. She earned her Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering from the University of Texas, San Antonio. She previously served on the National Academies Astro2020 Decadal Survey Panel on Exoplanets, Astrobiology, and the Solar System and the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, Origins Worlds and Life, panel on Giant Planet Systems.


Takayuki Ishida

Research and Development Directorate


Titan & Airless Bodies Session

   Takayuki Ishida is in research and development division of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He joined JAXA in 2015 and has been part of SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) project in Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), developing navigation cameras and vision-based navigation algorithms. These played a key role in SLIM's landing on the moon in 2024, making it the world's first spacecraft to achieve a pinpoint landing on the lunar surface. He also contributes to the standardization of SpaceWire-R, a reliable data communication protocol for spacecraft. His research interest includes terrain relative navigation for planetary precision landing, onboard image processing, spacecraft autonomy, onboard data handling architecture.

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Dr. Glenn Hines

NDL Chief Engineer, NASA Langley Research Center

Modeling, Simulation, Testing and Validation Session

     Dr. Glenn Hines is the Chief Engineer for the Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) instrument which was developed at NASA Langley Research Center. NDL successfully landed on the Moon in February 2024. He holds B.S and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science. He has held multiple positions at Langley including Branch Head of the Remote Sensing Branch. He is a recognized expert engineering authority on the development and application of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), multi-chip modules (MCMs), digital signal processors (DSPs), field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and signal processing algorithms. He has authored numerous technical research papers and received multiple NASA awards. 

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