November 27, 2011

Professor Peck Named NASA Chief Technologist

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A Cornell professor will begin his term as Chief Technologist for NASA this January after his appointment earlier this month.

Prof. Mason Peck, mechanical and aerospace engineering, said that in this role he will act as NASA’s primary advocate for technological development to Congress and the White House.

Peck’s predecessor, Georgia Institute of Technology Prof. Robert Braun, aerospace engineering, said he supported Peck for the position because of Peck’s prior work with NASA.

“Peck has proven himself as a space systems innovator and clear communicator,” Braun said. “[He possesses] relevant knowledge of the research and technology needs of NASA and other government agencies.”

Peck said he has been involved in several NASA-sponsored projects prior to his appointment as Chief Technologist, including the design of a propulsion system to power spacecraft and modular spacecraft held together by magnetic fields. The propulsion system used the force created between satellites and planetary magnetic fields instead of fuel.

“I’ve worked with NASA for years on previous projects, so I’m familiar with what’s at stake for them,” Peck said. “[My experience] brings a perspective to this position that can help NASA successfully reach out to the industry, to the public and to other government agencies.”

NASA currently suffers from a lack of investment in technology, particularly in funding new projects and missions — a problem Peck said he hopes to remedy.

“Technology at NASA creates jobs, stimulates the economy, promotes innovation within our country and offers an opportunity for engagement with the rest of the world,” Peck said. “If we as a nation don’t support NASA’s efforts in technology by making sure that Congress supports it financially … then ultimately NASA can’t be successful in bigger picture problems.”

After working for NASA, Peck said he plans to return to teaching and conducting research at Cornell.

Peck is currently the faculty member for a Spacecraft Research Team consisting of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as alumni.

Zac Manchester grad, a member of the team, said he thinks Peck will excel as Chief Technologist for NASA.

“I’m very happy to see him in that role at NASA,” said Manchester, who has worked with Peck on chip satellites since his undergraduate junior year. “He does very innovative work and his research is more adventurous and innovative than a lot of other [work].”

Braun, Peck’s predecessor, said he also looks forward to seeing Peck in his new role.

“Peck is an outstanding choice for this position,” Braun said. “He will represent NASA well and NASA will be well served during his tenure as Chief Technologist.”

Original Author: Kaitlyn Kwan