Katie Konans, NASA’s audio and podcasting lead at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is one of two NASA employees named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Class of 2024. The other agency honoree, Clare Luckey, is a systems engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list is a selection of young, creative, and bold minds the magazine’s experts consider revolutionaries, changing the course of business and society. Forbes evaluated more than 20,000 nominees to decide on 600 business and industry figures, with 30 selected in each of 20 industries.
“When I joined NASA in 2018, the agency didn’t have a dedicated audio program or strategy,” Konans said. “I was fresh out of an NPR member station fellowship, excited about the world of audio storytelling, and had the rare opportunity to build out a new part of NASA’s communications program.
“I will forever feel fortunate to have had that chance to experiment with a new medium and grow NASA’s audio program into the storytelling unit it is today. I recognize what a unique privilege it is to get the time, space, and encouragement – to do something new and different, that also pushes against the status quo, and have that big bet pay off.”
Konans has revolutionized NASA’s digital strategy through her work in audio communication. She is a creative communicator who works at the intersection of storytelling and strategy. Konan’s work has expanded NASA’s reach in the digital audio space, resulting in millions of downloads worldwide.
At NASA, she manages five active podcasts, including the flagship podcast “NASA’s Curious Universe,” which she launched in 2020. Since taking the leadership role in 2019, she’s grown the podcast audience to more than 8 million episode plays on Apple Podcasts alone, with a listener retention rate of 70% on average. She’s received the NASA Early Career Achievement Medal, a Webby Award, and the Robert H. Goddard Award for her team’s contributions to NASA’s public engagement and communication.
Prior to joining NASA, Konans was a features reporter at NPR affiliate Georgia Public Broadcasting, where she covered community-focused stories. Konans is passionate about working with students and is a coordinating mentor for Goddard’s Office of Communications internship program.
“I’m from the small town of McDonough, Georgia. I graduated from Mercer University in 2019 as the first in my family to complete a traditional college degree, but not without overcoming significant roadblocks. I put myself through school, and really struggled financially to make it to the finish line. I didn’t give up, and it’s one of the big reasons I was able to make it to NASA.
“I have to thank the many mentors I’ve had along the way, but especially the faculty of Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism. While I was battling those challenges, they saw something in me and truly encouraged me to reach for the stars. It’s one of the reasons I’m so involved in mentoring NASA’s communications interns today – I know that having just one person in your corner can absolutely change your life.”
In 2023, Konans also launched the agency’s first Spanish podcast in collaboration with the NASA en Español team.
“Today, NASA’s podcasts reach hundreds of thousands of podcast listeners across the globe, sharing stories of space and science that educate, inspire, and encourage younger audiences to get curious about the world of science and space. Working with my team to share those stories is more than I could have ever dreamed of being a part of. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center