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Jay Falker Jay Falker
NIAC Program Executive

John M. Falker, PhD, works at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He goes by “Jay” informally, and currently manages the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The most imaginative program in the Office of the Chief Technologist, NIAC develops visionary concepts that could revolutionize future missions.

Since joining NASA in 2003, Jay has supported both Headquarters and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in project, program, and agency roles. He has received more than a dozen awards, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for leading the realignment of NASA’s $2 billion exploration research and technology portfolio, and the JSC Director’s Commendation for strategic analysis of the lunar architecture.

Prior to joining NASA, Jay led various engineering and policy analyses for seven years, first while pursuing advanced degrees and later full-time. He has worked in several government agencies, private contractors, academic institutions, and federal research centers.

Jay holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Policy Analysis from MIT, an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a BS in Engineering Science (Honors) from Penn State, with minors in Economics and in Science, Technology, and Society. His graduate research helped develop the Federal Aviation Administration’s first Concept of Operations for Commercial Space Transportation.

Jay has two wonderful sons. His dreams about their future possibilities inspire his push to advance humanity the stars.

Jason DerlethJason Derleth
Senior Technology Analyst

Mr. Jason Derleth is an aerospace engineer and technology analyst with experience at NASA Headquarters, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and private industry. He is also a writer, musician, and craftsman. Although he came late to “rocket science”, he discovered he has a knack for it.

During high school, Mr. Derleth decided not to pursue traditional colleges. Instead he went to St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, to improve his writing skills. Its unique all-required program presented only original sources in philosophy, the history of math and science, music, language, and literature. His artistic side was thrilled when he was recognized for the best January Freshman Annual Essay at the end of his freshman year. It was further encouraged when he later won the prestigious Baird Prize for Science and the Arts, for hand-crafting a cello using traditional techniques learned from how-to books on violin building.

But between these artistic accomplishments, Mr. Derleth was surprised to discover another passion: science and engineering. In fact, he became quite fascinated with many aspects of science, and how patterns emerged from chaos if one simply applied careful thought and logic to a problem.

After graduating from St. John’s College in 2000, he went to the Massachusetts Institute for Technology for a master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics. While at MIT, Mr. Derleth realized how much of an engineer he had always been. It was so natural that he was able to teach himself modern calculus and physics while attending graduate engineering classes.

He graduated MIT in 2003 and went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. While there, he worked on the Mars Science Laboratory for the project systems engineer, optimized spacecraft mission designs by iterating spacecraft models to examine 20,000 different architectures, and led a team that built a rover resource model. He also worked on the START team, optimizing technology development portfolios.

This background earned him a unique opportunity to go to NASA HQ for the Exploration Systems Architecture Study. He helped lead the effort to refocus NASA’s $2B exploration technology portfolio to match the new goal of returning to the Moon. For this work he was awarded NASA’s Public Service Medal, and he was asked to stay at HQ. There he has supported first the Program Analysis & Evaluation as a project analyst, and then the newly formed Office of the Chief Technologist as a senior technology analyst.

After many years’ hiatus, Mr. Derleth has returned to writing in his spare time. He is dedicated to exploring other worlds in both reality and fantasy.

Ron Turner Ronald Turner
Senior Science Advisor

Dr. Turner is a Fellow with Analytic Services Inc. He is an internationally recognized expert in radiation risk management for astronauts, particularly in response to solar storms. For nine years he was the ANSER point of contact to the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), an independent institute charged with creating a vision of future space opportunities to lead NASA into the twenty-first century, and he is currently the Senior Science Advisor to the new, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. He was a Participating Scientist on the Mars Odyssey program. He is on the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Solar and Space Physics, is Co-Lead of the Research to Operations working group supporting the NRC Heliophysics Decadal Survey, and recently supported the NRC Committee for the Evaluation of Radiation Shielding for Space Exploration (May 2008). He is on the Advisory Council to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute Center for Acute Radiation Research. He served on an NRC Committee looking at precursor measurements necessary to support human operations on the surface of Mars (May 2002). He was chair of the NRC Human Health and Support Technologies panel of the NASA Capabilities Technology Roadmap Review in 2005. He supported an NRC report on Space Physics Support to NASA's Exploration Vision. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the Ohio State University.

Katherine Reilly Katherine Reilly
Outreach Coordinator

Kathy Reilly is a communications expert and award winning scientific and medical illustrator with a diverse background in the arts, sciences, communications, outreach and education. For five years she worked with the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), and is currently the Outreach Coordinator and Graphics Specialist to the new, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. She has previously worked as a Content Developer with the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry on numerous exploration and scientific exhibits with content experts worldwide from many disciplines. She has also worked with educational outreach programs to underserved students in “Mission to Mars: An Urban/Rural Collaborative To Inspire NASA’s Next Generation.” Her background also includes work at Yale University’s Department of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry on the team that first visualized the molecular structure of the mechanism for brain neurotransmission.

She has developed a woman-owned business that collaborates with scientific experts worldwide, news and media outlets, television, web outlets, social media, publishing houses, medical schools, universities, researchers, national publications, and attorneys nationwide. Her company takes complex medical, scientific and technical information and converts it into easy-to-understand images and copy for a variety of audiences on all technical levels.

She is also the proud mother of two sons, both of whom have attained the rank of BSA Eagle Scout.

Dr. Robert Cassanova Robert Cassanova
Chair, NIAC External Council

Dr. Cassanova is currently a consultant to private research organizations and government agencies. He was the Director of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) located in Atlanta, Georgia from February 1998 to August 2007. The NIAC was focused on the development of revolutionary, advanced systems and architectures in the fields of aeronautics and space. The NIAC was an independent institute sponsored by NASA and contracted through the Universities Space Research Association. Dr. Cassanova coordinated the operation of NIAC at the highest levels of NASA HQ and the NASA Centers. He is the recipient of the NASA Public Service Medal for exceptional contributions to the Mission of NASA. The NIAC team, including members from USRA, ANSER Corporation and NASA received the NASA Group Achievement Award. Dr. Cassanova expanded on the synergisms of art and science to build a highly acclaimed organization that encourages visionary investigators to explore revolutionary concepts stretching the possibilities of future scientific breakthroughs. Prior to becoming the Director of NIAC, Dr. Cassanova was Director of the Aerospace and Transportation Laboratory in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). While in GTRI and in the School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech, he performed research in biofluid mechanics, solar thermal energy, acoustics, combustion and rarefied gas dynamics. He career also includes research in rocket plume testing and high altitude hypersonic flight at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He remains a dedicated creator of black and white photographic images on silver gelatin paper produced in a conventional, wet chemical darkroom. Dr. Cassanova has a serious passion for photography and integrates the visualization process for science and art into his lectures on revolutionary creativity.

His photography has been exhibited in the American Center for Physics, Ridderhoff-Martin Gallery, Annie D. Boykin Gallery, Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery and the American Embassy in Lima, Peru. A sampling of his photographs can be viewed on the website: