TEAM

TEAM

Dr. Leon Alkalai

CEO & Founder

Michael Preudhomme

Director of Engineering

BRANDON FLORIAN

Head of Business Development

TIMOTHY PETERSON

Principal Systems Engineer

TIMOTHY ROGENMOSER

Mechanical ENGINEER

Adi ravikumar

Business Development Intern

Jeshwanth Yathirajam

Incubation Studio ASSOCIATE

chandler clemons

Studio Consultant

Emma Way

Business Operations Manager

Dr. Sandya Narayanswami

Head of Partnerships

ELINOR SHKLAZ

Accountant

Camila Aristimuno

engineering intern

Vincent Finello

ENGINEERING intern

Jonathan Morris

ENGINEERING intern

Eugene Choi

ENGINEERING intern

Dr. Leon Alkalai

CEO & Founder

Michael Preudhomme

Director of Engineering

Elinor Shklaz

Head of accounting and hr

Dr. Sandya Narayanswami

HEAD OF PARTNERSHIPS​

Tim peterson

Principal systems engineer

Vincent Finello

Technical Associate

Emma Way

Business Operations Manager

TIM ROGENMOSER​

Mechanical Engineer

Severin Blenkush

Head of Government Contracts

Jeshwanth Yathirajam

Incubation Studio ASSOCIATE

chandler clemons

Studio Consultant

Camila Aristimuno

engineering intern

Jonathan Morris

ENGINEERING intern

Eugene Choi

ENGINEERING intern

Adi Ravikumar

Business intern

Advisory Board

Hon. Dan Goldin

NASA Administrator (1990-2001)

Dr. Charles Elachi

Director of JPL (2001-2016)

Hon. Dana Shell-Smith

U.S. Defense Policy Board 2022

Peter Lowy

The Lowy Family Group

Board of Directors

Brad Schwartz

Managing Partner, Strategic Law Partners

Brian Sullivan

CEO, NEP Group Inc.

Stephen Kay

General Counsel, Roku

TECHNICAL EXPERTS

Dr. Ira Katz

Retired JPL Engineer

David Skulsky

Former JPL Engineer

Dr. Dara Sabahi

Retired JPL Fellow

Pez Zarifian

Sys. Engineer, Applied Intuition

Dr. Jonathan Grandidier

Technical Supervisor, Blue Origin

Dr. Dan Goebel

Chief Engineer at JPL

Thomas Randolph

Senior Director at Blue Origin

Dr. Fernando Mier Hicks

JPL Engineer

Dr. Randy Pollock

Former JPL Engineer

Dr. Peter Gage

Neerim Corp Systems Engineer

Dr. Anthony Freeman

Retired JPL Program Manager

Dr. Leslie J. Deutsch

Retired JPL Mathematician & Mngr

Dr. John Brophy

Engineering Fellow at JPL

Dr. Brian Wilcox

Retired JPL Fellow

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Dr. Leon Alkalai

CEO and Founder

Dr. Alkalai is the founder of Mandala Space Ventures. Dr. Leon Alkalai is a recently retired Technical Fellow of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology where he spent 32 years after getting his PhD at UCLA in 1989. During his career at JPL, Dr. Alkalai held numerous leadership positions and was responsible for the capture leadership of both the GRAIL mission to the Moon (2007) and the INSIGHT lander on Mars (2012). For both efforts, Dr. Leon Alkalai received Distinguished Individual Achievement medals from NASA in 2011 and 2019 respectively. Dr. Alkalai was also heading up JPL strategic partnerships and strategic planning for the Laboratory. In early 2021, Dr. Alkalai retired from JPL and created Mandala Space Ventures, a space-focused, Pasadena-based incubator for new start-ups in the emerging space economy. Leon is also the General Partner at the Explorer-1 Venture Fund which is also affiliated with the Mandala space incubator. Recently, Mandala launched its first new venture called Continuum Space Systems, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company for the emerging digital space economy.

Michael Preudhomme

Director, Engineering

At Mandala, Michael Preudhomme oversees all of the engineering studio services to portfolio companies, internal startup incubation engineering services and other matters of a technical nature. He is a seasoned Propulsion Systems Engineer who recently joined Mandala Space Ventures after serving at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for nearly a decade. At JPL, he was responsible for overseeing the design, development, and delivery of the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander engines. Michael is a versatile engineer who combines his expertise in financial forecasting and multi-physics simulations with spacecraft design and optimization. Michael obtained his MS in Materials Science & Engineering from Stanford, his MBA from the University of Miami, and his BS in Astronautical Engineering as well as a BA in Chemistry from the University of Southern California.

During his time at JPL, Michael was recognized for his exceptional work on the Europa Lander engine development and his proficiency in modeling engine plume-surface interactions on Mars. His passion for space exploration and propulsion systems engineering makes him an ideal addition to the Mandala team. When he is not diving into work, he enjoys diving in the ocean.

brandon florian

head of business development

Brandon has worked in Aerospace & Defense for 20 years spanning functions in engineering, business management, business development, strategy and innovation. 
 
He started his career as a spacecraft systems engineer for General Dynamics supporting the Naval Satellite Operations Center at Point Mugu. In 2007, he moved to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach as a program control analyst, where he spent a five years working on various space programs. In 2014, he was selected to participate in a business development rotational program. This ultimately led to him to join the Strategic Growth team for Aerospace Systems, where he worked on the early due diligence of the Orbital ATK acquisition. He was also responsible for standing up the Open Innovation role charged with engaging emerging tech startups in partnership with Starburst Accelerator.
 
In 2018, he joined the Starburst team to help grow their US defense business. During his three years tenure, he was responsible for growing and managing corporate and government clients, such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, LM MilSpace, Triumph Aerostructures, AFWERX, and Hyundai CRADLE.  His proposals lead to the first ever international accelerator (Allied Defence Accelerator) between the US Space Force and the UK Ministry of Defence in 2020, as well as the 3-year Office of Commerce-funded SCALE Aerospace Program in partnership with UCLA School of Engineering that ran from 2020-2023. 
 
He has a BSc Aerospace Engineering from UCLA, and a MBA in Entrepreneurship from Pepperdine. He has also held a TS/SCI clearance. 
 
 

Emma Way

BUSINESS Operations Manager

Emma has a B.A in Communications and a M.S in Sports Journalism. Emma has worked for a number of startups and small businesses throughout her career. She started off in venture capital, working as a business consultant for The Players’ Impact, a venture capital platform for professional athletes. She started working for Mandala Space Ventures in 2021 as a full-time Media and Communications Associate before becoming a part-time consultant to pursue a consulting career.

Emma opened up her own business consulting services in 2022, aiding founders and CEO’s with business operations and administration. She has consulted for Resonate Labs, a modern meditation device start-up, Magicoley, a PR firm, Digital Media Architects, a forward thinking social marketing firm, and Continuum Space Systems, Mandala’s first portfolio company. Currently, Emma works for Mandala as a Business Operations Manager.

Dr. Sandya Narayanswami

Foundations, Caltech

Dr. Sandya Narayanswami overseas Partnerships and Programs at Mandala. Sandya is a life scientist whose research experience includes a faculty position at The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine. Her most recent position was Director of Foundation Relations at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
 

ELINOR SKHLAZ

SENIOR ACCOUNTANT

Elinor is a dynamic and innovative Chartered Accountant, recognized for her ability to think beyond traditional boundaries and articulate her unique vision with passion and clarity. With a strong commitment to excellence, she consistently delivers creative and efficient solutions to complex problems. Her proactive approach to client and team interactions fosters a collaborative and productive work environment, making her an invaluable asset to any project. Elinor’s exceptional analytical skills, coupled with her effective communication abilities, ensure that she not only understands the intricacies of her projects but also effectively conveys her insights to her team and stakeholders. Her dedication and unique skill set make her a standout professional in her field.

TIM PETERSON

PRINCIPAL SYSTEMS ENGINEER

Tim Peterson is a US/UK dual national, Space Systems Engineer holding Master’s degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and Space Systems from Durham University and Cranfield University. Tim has held positions at Boeing Satellite Development Centre in LA, Thales Alenia Space in the UK, and QinetiQ Space in the UK and Belgium. Across his career Tim has focussed primarily on propulsion systems and product development, having led the design, development, and mission operations of propulsion systems and products on commercial GEO satellite developments and LEO/MEO constellations, as well as several ESA and NASA programs. Tim is passionate about innovation, product development and the translation of novel technologies into successful commercial products at Mandala Space Ventures.

Vincent Finello

Technical associate

Vincent Finello joined Mandala Space Ventures as an intern in 2023 where he focuses on technical diligence and fundraising. Prior to joining MSV, he obtained his undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California (USC). While completing his degree he worked in the esteemed Rocket Propulsion Lab and served as an executive board member of the Global Investment Society, where he honed his skills in engineering, financial analysis, and investment strategies.

Vincent has held internships at SpaceX, where he contributed as a propulsion development engineer on the Falcon 9 second stage engine, and at The TCW Group, where he worked as an analyst on the Technology Equity Research Team. At TCW, he focused on both public and private company valuations. This role allowed him to leverage his engineering background while developing a deep understanding of financial markets.

Building upon his diverse skill set, Vincent is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Financial Engineering at USC and working in the Liquid Propulsion Lab where he seeks to merge his technical expertise with a strong foundation in finance and math.
 

TIM ROGENMOSER

MECHANICAL ENGINEER

Tim earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from ETH Zurich with a focus on advanced structures and aerospace engineering. He combines practical experience gained as a structural and aerodynamics engineer at Dufour Aerospace, a pioneering eVTOL startup, with research experience at ETH Zurich, the Caltech Space Structures Laboratory, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). At Caltech and JPL, Tim contributed to the design and analysis of novel deployable structure architectures. Now, he works as a mechanical systems engineer at Mandala Space Ventures, contributing to the advancement of innovative technologies.

Severin Blenkush

Head of Government Contracts

Colonel (retired) Severin Blenkush is a 27-year Air Force veteran whose career in acquisition culminated as Director of Contracting for Air Mobility Command’s $1.6B contract portfolio which spanned 11 geographically separated locations. Along the way, Severin was a three-time Commander, deployed to Iraq twice and Qatar once, and served at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. His space experience includes three years working classified space systems at Los Angeles Air Force Base (now Space Force Base) and two years in acquisition plus two years in operations for the National Reconnaissance Office. Severin held unlimited Contracting Officer Warrants in three different Air Force Major Command. Recently appointed as Space Force Association’s New Mexico Chapter President,
Severin is tasked with standing up a new organization dedicated to serving US Space Force Guardians and advocating for the Space Industry as a whole.

JESHWANTH YATHIRAJAM

INCUBATION STUDIO ASSOCIATE

Jeshwanth is a seasoned professional with a passion for innovation and sustainability. With a Master’s degree in Integrated Innovation for Products and Services from Carnegie Mellon University, he has developed a unique blend of technical and business acumen. His experience includes an internship at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he designed and built a Python-based application for visualizing satellite data and analyzing Earth’s temporal variations. Additionally, he holds an MBA in Information Technology Management from Chatham University and a professional certificate in Computer Science from MITx. As a management consultant, Jeshwanth’s goal is to leverage his interdisciplinary skills and knowledge to create impactful and sustainable solutions that drive meaningful change.

CHANDLER CLEMONS

STUDIO CONSULTANT

Chandler oversees Finance and Data Science at Mandala, bringing years of diverse experience. Chandler is a trained econometrician and data scientist focusing on helping founders successfully bring their ideas to market through both technical development and financial engineering. As an investor, he has worked with family offices and venture funds with a focus on emerging technologies and high growth sectors. Prior to his career in venture capital, Chandler taught Empirical Macroeconomics at Pomona College and was an economist at US Bank. Chandler earned his Ph.D. in Economics at Claremont Graduate University and his BA in Economics at the University of Washington.

CAMILA ARISTIMUNO

ENGINEERING INTERN

Camila Aristimuno is currently honing her skills as a Spacecraft Systems Engineering Intern at Mandala Space Ventures, where she is involved in the initial structural design for an orbital data processing center, focusing on satellite deployment, electric propulsion systems, and thermal control configurations. Pursuing a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California with concentrations in Propulsion and Spacecraft Systems Design & Operations, Camila is deeply engaged in the field. Her role as the Fluid Systems Responsible Engineer at the USC Liquid Propulsion Laboratory further showcases her expertise, particularly in designing and developing liquid bi-propellant feed systems. Camila is also responsible for leading test campaigns for Mike’s Fury and Balerion, two regeneratively cooled KeroLOx engines, highlighting her capabilities in engine testing and feed system design. With a solid foundation in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Camila is poised for a significant impact in aerospace engineering, particularly in propulsion systems and spacecraft design.

Jonathan Morris

ENGINEERING INTERN

Jonathan Morris, an Engineering Intern at Mandala Space Ventures, applies his knowledge in aerospace engineering and high-performance computing to contribute to cutting-edge projects. As a 3rd-year Aerospace Engineering student at UCLA, he is deeply involved in coursework, technical projects, and his part-time technical job on campus. At UCLA, he serves as Technical Lead of Combat Robotics in ASME at UCLA (23-24′ academic year) and as Avionic Systems Component Lead at UCLA’s Rocket Project (23-24′ academic year). His technical acumen is further demonstrated at UCLA’s Planetary Science department, where he works under Professor David Paige as a Computer Resources Specialist for a large scientific HPC cluster. Demonstrating an exceptional commitment to his field, Jonathan completed two associate degrees in high school, highlighting his early dedication and prowess in engineering.

Eugene Choi

ENGINEERING INTERN

Introducing Eugene, our dedicated intern whose passion for innovation and problem-solving has made a lasting impact on our team. With a talent for developing advanced algorithms and risk management tools, Eugene has proven himself to be a valuable asset in our pursuit of excellence. Through his dedication and expertise in data analysis and programming, he has contributed significantly to our projects, showcasing his exceptional talent and commitment to driving impactful solutions.

A senior at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering studying Astronautical Engineering, Eugene has gathered diverse experience across a wide range of work, including interning at Northrop Grumman down in Redondo Beach to work on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Next Gen Polar (NGP) OPIR program. Eugene also contributed to USC’s Space Engineering Research Center’s (SERC) Soft Translatable Advanced Robot For In-Space Handling (STARFISH) project as a software and controls volunteer, and to the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (USCRPL) by building the composite body of the Poise rocket launched in 2020 and designing the lab’s liquid combustion chamber over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eugene has a strong background in education, having spent over six years as a tutor at Eye Level Learning teaching math and English to students from elementary to high school. Eugene is known for his proficiency in tools like MATLAB, Python, and Microsoft Excel, which complement his solid foundation in both theoretical and applied engineering principles. Whenever he has free time, Eugene plays the classical violin and dreams of exploring the cosmos.

Adi Ravikumar

Business Intern

Adi Ravikumar is currently a Business Intern at Mandala Space Ventures and an MBA candidate at UCLA Anderson School of Management, leveraging a robust background in finance, compliance, and risk management. His professional journey includes significant roles at Google, where he was a Risk & Compliance Manager, and at PwC as a Senior Associate in Forensic Consulting. Adi’s academic credentials include a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with a minor in Accounting from UC Irvine. His work is characterized by a commitment to innovation and social impact, as evidenced by his leadership as Co-President at Anderson Venture Impact Partners, an early-stage social venture capital fund.

Hon. Dan Goldin

NASA Administrator (1990-2001)

The Honorable Daniel S. Goldin is an entrepreneurial and scientific visionary, with the distinction of serving as NASA’s longest-tenured Administrator from April 1992-November 2001 reporting to three U.S. Presidents. He is credited with the re-emergence of NASA after the Cold War, as he diplomatically fostered east-west international cooperation and oversaw the redesign, construction, and initial operation of the $120B International Space Station, as well as guided the initial concept of the James Webb Space Telescope to assure it would see back to the beginnings of creation. As the founder of Cold Canyon, an innovation advisory company, his career spans space exploration and science, aeronautics, air traffic management, national security systems, semiconductors, advanced sensors, hypersonic, communications, and artificial intelligence. With his accumulated experience, Mr. Goldin is a highly sought-after leader in advancing American technologies and businesses.

 

Dr. Charles Elachi

Director of JPL (2001-2016)

During Dr. Elachi’s 16-year tenure as Director of JPL, 24 missions managed by the laboratory were launched. Including Genesis, Mars Odyssey, Deep Impact, Kepler, GRAIL and Juno to name a few. Prior to his time at JPL, he was responsible for the development of numerous flight systems for Solar System exploration, space-based astronomy, and Earth science.

 

Hon. Dana Shell-Smith

U.S. Defense Policy Board 2022

Hon. Dana Shell-Smith served as a U.S. Ambassador to Qatar 2014 – 2017 and is presently a senior non-resident fellow at Georgetown University. During her tenure as Ambassador, Ms. Shell- Smith successfully advocated for billions of dollars in U.S. business and investment opportunities in Qatar, and Qatari investment in the U.S.

 

Peter Lowy

The Lowy Family Group

Peter Lowy is a principal of the Lowy Family Group (LFG,) a private investment business with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Sydney. Peter also serves as Co-CEO of the Westfield Group, a major global retail property group with a portfolio exceeding $60 billion. He holds leadership roles in organizations like the Homeland Security Advisory Council, RAND Corporation, and the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Brad Schwartz

Managing Partner, Strategic Law Partners

For over 25 years, Brad has been an active participant and leader in the Los Angeles start up and emerging growth community. He has extensive experience in corporate law matters, including venture and other financing transactions and merger and acquisitions, having closed several hundred financings and acquisitions ranging from a few million to a few billion dollars in deal size. Brad was previously the founding partner of Strategic Law Partners, LLP, and a former corporate partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP.
 
Brad and Strategic Law have represented a wide variety of companies from successful early stage and venture backed companies (such as Green Dot, Riot Games, and Trade Desk) to incubators and accelerators (such as Idealab and Mandala Space Ventures) to investors and private equity firms (including Carrick Capital, The Chernin Group, Aurora Capital, Endeavor Capital and Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners) to large public and private companies (such as Warner Bros, Fox, IAC and Ticketmaster).  Brad’s LA based start ups have been funded and/or bought by leading venture capital and private equity companies, including Sequoia, Benchmark, Kleiner Perkins, Bessemer, Andreessen Horowitz, Greycroft, and Upfront Ventures. In addition, Brad and Strategic Law have been a go to place for mid market M&A transactions with a focus on add on acquisitions for portfolio companies of private equity firms, family owned businesses and venture backed companies.
 
Over the last several years, Brad has been active in various capacities (ranging from attorney, to board member or advisor to investor) in spin offs from key institutions in the greater Pasadena area (Caltech, JPL/NASA and the City of Hope).  Brad has also taught a class on start ups and venture capital at the USC Gould School of Law. Brad was selected to the Los Angeles Super Lawyers list from 2012-2024.

 

Brian Sullivan

CEO, NEP Group, Inc.

Brian Sullivan is a distinguished board member at Mandala Space Ventures, where his strategic insights and expertise in budgeting and growth strategies greatly contribute to pioneering innovations in space technology. He extends his influence in the media and technology sectors as a seasoned C-Level Executive, having led significant transformations at NEP Group, Inc. as CEO. His advisory prowess is highlighted through his impactful roles at McKinsey & Company and his foundational investment in Angel City Football Club, demonstrating a keen eye for future potential and market dynamics. Brian holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from Villanova University, and his comprehensive experience across consumer, entertainment, sports, and telecommunications industries underscores his valuable leadership and advisory capabilities.

Stephen Kay

General Counsel, Roku

Stephen Kay is a board member for Mandala Space Ventures, where he guides the development of innovative space technologies. He also holds the position of General Counsel at Roku, managing a broad spectrum of legal responsibilities, including corporate and commercial transactions, intellectual property, and content distribution. Stephen’s legal career spans over three decades and includes significant roles such as Managing Partner at the Los Angeles Office of Hogan Lovells and Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Gemstar-TV Guide. His academic credentials include a JD, magna cum laude, from Boston University School of Law, and a BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Ira Katz

Former Advanced Propulsion Tech Group Lead, JPL

Ira Katz, PhD, is an aerospace consultant specializing in electric propulsion and spacecraft charging. He retired from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory after leading the Electric Propulsion group for almost two decades and researching electric propulsion physics. Previously, he worked in industry investigating spacecraft charging and headed the team that developed the NASA Charging Analyzer Program, NASCAP. Dr. Katz is the author of more than 100 peer reviewed journal articles and co-author of the textbook “Fundamentals of Electric Propulsion.”

David Skulsky

Former JPL Engineer

David Skulsky worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 29 years in a broad range of Guidance, Navigation, and Control and Entry, Descent, and Landing-related roles, including GN&C system engineering, EDL system engineering, simulation model development, GN&C sensor design and testing, and flight operations. He has supported both orbital and landing missions, including Mars Observer, the Cassini Mission to Saturn, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix Mars Lander, and the Insight Mars Lander. On InSight, David was the Entry, Descent, and Landing Lead and he was the Deorbit, Descent, and Landing Lead for the proposed Europa Lander mission. Prior to retiring from JPL, David was the Product Delivery Manager for the Sample Retrieval Lander GN&C subsystem. He has also held line management positions as the group supervisor of the GN&C System Engineering Group and the EDL System Engineering Group. David holds a bachelor degree in electrical engineering and masters degree in aerospace engineering.

Dr. Dara Sabahi

Retired JPL Fellow

Dr. Dara Sabahi was a Systems Engineer and Chief Engineer at NASA JPL since 1989 till his retirement in early 2018. He was responsible for major subsystems on all Mars landed missions, since Mars Pathfinder. Mars Science Laboratory Rover (Curiosity Rover) Project System Engineer – Landed in 2012 and Operational. Phoenix Project Chief Engineer-Landed in 2008 and completed surface mission. Mars Exploration Rovers Project (Spirit & Opportunity) Mechanical System Architect – Landed in ‘03 and operational. Mars Pathfinder Project Mechanical System Engineer – Landed in 2007 and completed surface mission.

Pez Zarifian

Systems Engineer at Applied Intuition

Pez Zarifian was a Deputy Systems Engineer in JPL’s concurrent engineering Advanced Projects Design Team (Team X) and has developed some of the most innovative concepts for space exploration. Prior to his involvement with formulation activities, Pez was a member of the I & T team for JPL’s PMD project and was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Delivery of PMD flight hardware.  From 2020 to 2022,  Zarifian worked at the Toyota Research Institute as a Senior Systems Engineer and later as a Manager of Systems Engineering. Pez then joined Woven Planet as a Manager of Systems Engineering in 2022 before moving to Applied Intuition in 2023. 

Pez Zarifian obtained a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, Pez completed a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from the same university, spanning from 2006 to 2009. Additionally, Pez Zarifian acquired additional certifications such as SOTIF Training from TÜV SÜD in October 2021 and became a Certified Functional Safety Engineer from TÜV SÜD in September 2021.

Dr. Jonathan Grandidier

Technical Supervisor at Blue Origin

Dr. Grandidier has been a technical group supervisor at Blue Origin for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) since 2022. Before joining Blue Origin, he was part of the Solar Array Technology and Engineering group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for 8 years and a Visiting Associate at Caltech for the Space Solar Power Project (SSPP). He specializes in solar arrays, photovoltaics, power beaming and power subsystems for space applications. He was the Power Subsystem Lead for Cassini Spacecraft until the End of Mission.

Dr. Dan Goebel

JPL Fellow

Dan M. Goebel is a Fellow and Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering at UCLA. He is a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Fellow of the IEEE, Fellow of the AIAA, Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and former Chair of the AIAA Electric Propulsion Committee and the IEEE EDS Vacuum Devices Technical Committee. He is an internationally recognized expert in electric propulsion, microwave sources, advanced plasma sources and high voltage engineering. At JPL he is the Chief Engineer of the Psyche Discovery Mission, he does research and development in ion and Hall thrusters for deep space solar electric propulsion missions, and he applies his expertise in electrostatic discharges, microwave devices, power systems and communications systems to JPL projects.

Thomas Randolph

Project Systems Engineer at JPL

After completing undergraduate work at USC and graduate work at Princeton University in 1992, Tom Randolph worked at Space Systems Loral where he managed the qualification of the SPT-100 Hall thruster system leading to the first commercial flights of a Hall thruster on MBSAT. After starting work at JPL in 2003, Tom has been the Product Delivery Manager for the LISA Pathfinder colloid microthruster system, the Project System Engineer on the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator Technology Demonstration Mission, the Technical Group Supervisor of the Project Systems Engineering Group, the Project Manager for ASPIRE, and the Project Systems Engineer for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander.

Dr. Fernando Mier Hicks

Advanced Robotics at JPL

Dr. Mier-Hicks is group lead of the Advanced Robotics Group at JPL. He has led avionics efforts on test equipment for the Perseverance rover, Ingenuity Helicopter and robots for extreme environments. Fernando functioned as a rover driver for the Curiosity rover. More recently, he architected and is a system engineer of a new Mars helicopter element as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. Prior to joining JPL, Fernando completed a PhD at MIT focusing on thrust, spacecraft charging, and attitude control characterization of electrospray thrusters using a magnetically levitated testbed.

Randy Pollock

Retired NASA Engineer

Randy Pollock has held key systems engineering or management roles on many key NASA environmental monitoring missions, including the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), Orbiting Carbon Observatory series (OCO, OCO-2 and OCO-3), and the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT). He also served as the chief engineer for the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument on the Mars Perseverance rover. His work has ranged across the entire lifecycle of projects including technology development, mission concept development, flight hardware and software design, fabrication, test & qualification, and flight operations.

Dr. Peter Gage

Neerim Corp Systems Engineer

Dr. Gage has a proven track record in vehicle design for NASA, primarily on Entry, Descent and Landing, but with recent experience on launch vehicles and mission architecture. His long involvement with NASA’s Advanced Engineering Environment can guide collaboration solutions for design teams. Peter has deep experience with CAD and its role in high-fidelity simulation.

Tony Freeman

Retired JPL Program Manager

What Tony Freeman, Ph. D. loves most about what he has achieved in his 41-year career is having had the opportunity to synthesize ideas from multiple and diverse directions into innovative space missions, program architectures and enterprise solutions to do what no-one has been able to do before. He has been fortunate enough to do this three times – once as the Earth Science Formulation lead at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), leading JPL’s Innovation Foundry role as a champion for JPL’s SmallSat missions, and lastly as Formulation lead for Planetary Science. Shaping the future of space exploration through architecting at this level is a heady exercise — especially at this time of rapid change in the space business. Being strategic about developing new projects, and innovative in how new capabilities are infused, seeds the ground for missions and measurements that can transform humanity’s relationship with space in the coming decades.

Prior to retiring from JPL, Dr. Freeman was the most senior formulation leader there, with experience spanning multiple business areas, and a proven track record of success in building programs consisting of directed and competed NASA missions, resulting in more than $4.5B of new business. He has managed concept development and successful proposal campaigns, led science mission proposals that received the highest possible evaluation, and overseen strategic road-mapping efforts. He has mentored most of JPL’s other senior formulation leads. As a highly creative individual and a systems thinker he is passionate about what’s next in space exploration.

In a technical career spanning 41 years, he has authored over 300 original research contributions, and is still active in publishing his ideas. He is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers for his work on the end-to-end calibration of Synthetic Aperture Radar systems. Dr. Freeman is a native of Manchester, England. He has a B.Sc. (Hons.) degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, both from the University of Manchester.  

Dr. Leslie J. Deutsch

Retired JPL Mathematician and Manager

Dr. Deutsch began his JPL career in 1980 after receiving a PhD from Caltech. He developed new methods of deep space communications before becoming the manager of JPL’s deep space communications technology program. In 1991, He received the IEEE Judith Resnik Award for his
“contributions to the theory and practice of deep space telecommunications and information processing.” He has managed many JPL technology programs and served as JPL’s Chief Technologist for a stint before going into executive management – ending up as Deputy Director of JPL’s Interplanetary Network Directorate. Along the way, Dr. Deutsch led teams to recover the Galileo and Huygens Spacecraft from communication anomalies – introducing many new technologies to these and other space missions in the process. In 2022, NASA awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Medal. Dr. Deutsch has a second career in music where he has developed many patents and holds the position of “Caltech Organist.”

Dr. John Brophy

Engineering Fellow at JPL

John Brophy received a B.S. in Mechanical Engr. from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1978, and M.S. Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University in 1980 and 1984. In 1991 he led the U.S. team in the evaluation of Hall thruster technology in the Soviet Union leading to the wide‐spread adoption of this technology in the West. In 1992 he initiated the NSTAR Project that successfully demonstrated of ion propulsion on Deep Space 1. He was responsible for the delivery of the Ion Propulsion System for NASA’s Dawn mission launched in 2007, resulting in the first‐ever use of ion propulsion on a deep‐space science mission. In 2011 he co‐led the Asteroid Retrieval Mission study at Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies that resulted in NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission. He is a JPL and an AI‐AA Fellow. He received the Ernst Stuhlinger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Electric Propulsion in 2015 and the AIAA Wyld Propulsion Award in 2017.

Dr. Brian Wilcox

Retired JPL Fellow

Brian Wilcox is a retired Fellow of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA center operated by Caltech. During his 38 years at JPL, he was Supervisor of the Robotic Vehicles Group for 20 years, and Manager of the Space Robotics Technology Program for 15 years. He received numerous awards, including the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement medal, the NASA Exceptional Public Service medal, and was twice awarded the JPL Award for Excellence. More recently, is a co-founder of Marine BioEnergy, Inc (marinebiomass.com) which seeks to replace fossil fuels with carbon-neutral fuels made from giant kelp grown in the open ocean. Brian is the inventor of a worldwide patent on the now-validated method of depth-cycling kelp between the surface water to absorb sunlight during the daytime and diving the kelp to the thermocline (typically 60-150 meters deep) to absorb nutrients at night. This method opens the vast areas of the open ocean to cultivation for the first time.