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Space Technology at NASA - An Illini Grad’s Journey

Event Type
Department of Aerospace Engineering
CIF 1035
Apr 26, 2024   10:00 - 11:00 am  
Dr. Prasun Desai , Deputy Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA
Courtney McLearin
Originating Calendar
Department of Aerospace Engineering Events

In this talk, Illini grad Dr. Prasun Desai will provide an overview of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, where he works with experts to define and make investments in the next generation of space capabilities such as advanced propulsion systems, landing systems, autonomy, structures and materials, new avionics packages, mobility, and robotics.

Dr. Desai will also share some of the key decisions he made in his career journey and provide some thoughts for students to consider as they prepare for their own careers.

About the speaker: Dr. Prasun Desai serves as the Deputy Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). In this role, Dr. Desai supports executive leadership, overall strategic planning and direction, and effective management for all elements of the Space Technology Programs executed under STMD’s $1.2 billion budget. He helps plan, direct, coordinate, and evaluate the full range of Space Technology programs and activities including budget formulation and execution, and represents the program to appropriate officials within and outside the Agency. Dr. Desai allocates and reprograms STMD resources as required to meet approved objectives and ensures that sound management and engineering practices are followed in the implementation of STMD Programs and Projects to ensure their safety and success, and to ensure that commitments are met. In this role, he also supports the development of overall NASA planning, policy development, and program integration activities.

Dr. Desai has worked at NASA for 33 years. For the past 13 years, he has helped to establish the Space Technology Mission Directorate from inception at NASA Headquarters for development of next-generation space technologies and capabilities. Prior to that, he spent 20 years at NASA Langley Research Center as a senior systems engineer applying expertise in the fields of atmospheric flight dynamics, systems optimization, engineering of entry systems, flight operations, and design of planetary exploration mission elements for robotic and human systems. Dr. Desai has contributed to the design, development, analyses, and flight operations of many NASA missions (Mars Exploration Rover, Stardust, Genesis, Mars Phoenix Lander) pertaining to entry, descent, and landing of probes at Mars and Earth.

Dr. Desai has received numerous awards from NASA for his contributions, including two Exceptional Engineering Achievement medals; an Exceptional Achievement medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal; a Presidential Rank Award; and an Exceptional Service Medal for his significant contributions throughout his NASA career. He also received the 2005 National Engineer of the Year Award from American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Dr. Desai has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University, an M.S. in Astronautics from the George Washington University, and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has authored or co-authored over 60 technical publications. Desai is also a prolific speaker, having given presentations to schools (K-12), universities (domestically and internationally), civic groups, professional organizations, and the general public to promote science education and science literacy and to motive students for careers in math and science. He was the NASA Langley Research Center’s “Speaker of the Year” in 2008, 2009, 2011, and was inducted in the NASA Langley Speaker Hall of Fame in 2012.

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