Dinosaurs of Antarctica (Screening and Q&A)

Take an epic journey back in time to a prehistoric world now lost to ice, with this sneak preview of the giant screen adventure, Dinosaurs of Antarctica. Meet the scientists who explore the frozen continent’s glaciers on a quest to uncover its secret past. And learn how to draw a dinosaur with the award winning team behind the comic, The Time Traveling Dinosaur Detectives of Antarctica. Explorers of all ages are welcome!


Deborah Raksany (moderator), Libby Ives, Dr. Patricia Ryberg, Dr. Nathan Smith, G. Neri, Corban Wilkin

2021-07-08T07:50:30-05:00Tags: |

An Hour with Adam Savage

Since MythBusters stopped filming in November 2015, Adam Savage has been busy. He’s filmed two series (Savage Builds, MythBusters Jr), visited some amazing sets (Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Alien Covenant, The Expanse, Blade Runner 2049), built some awesome costumes (Totoro, Iron Man, Star-Lord) and traveled the country for various tours. But this panel is about YOU. For his FIRST Awesome Con appearance, Adam will answer your questions on everything from his past (which includes not only MythBusters but Star Wars) to his present to his future!


Adam Savage

2021-08-14T16:18:43-05:00Tags: , , , |

Space Lasers

This panel is all about real spaceborne lasers with the experts who made it all happen. Explore this cutting-edge laser altimetry technology and science through past, present, and future NASA satellite missions that study Lunar dust, the surface of planets, and elevation of ice, land, water, and trees to study our own home planet Earth.

Learn how NASA scientists and engineers triumphed when people said ‘it couldn’t be done.’ Go behind the scenes with missions like the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), launched with its green lasers in 2018, a laser communications relay mission launching this year, lunar, planetary and Earth missions such as LRO, MOLA, MLA, LOLA, and International Space Station-based GEDI. Discover the Space Geodesy Project – an international laser ranging system to satellites from Earth-based stations.

Catch a glimpse of what the future holds for this technology including analogue waveforms to map planetary scale topography and beyond (Earth, Moon, Mars, asteroids, Europa, and more.)  Plus, watch what happens when scientists team up with art and design students, producing an animated short starring an anthropomorphic light photon.

Dr. Jim Garvin

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Chief Scientist

Principal Investigator, DAVINCI mission to Venus

Dr. Garvin is a veteran Earth and planetary scientist within NASA in a career that has spanned more than 30 years, Dr. Garvin brings his experience with interdisciplinary science and instrumentation in helping to direct the scientific trajectory of the Center. Prior to coming to Goddard, Garvin served as the NASA Chief Scientist, advising three separate Administrators on issues ranging from science strategies associated with the Vision for Space Exploration to those involved in rebalancing the NASA science portfolio. In addition, Dr. Garvin served as the chief scientist for Mars exploration from 2000 until 2004 and spearheaded the development of the scientific strategy that led NASA to select such missions as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix polar lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory. He received two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals for his work with the science behind the Mars Exploration Program.  He is also the recipient of two Presidential Rank Awards for his contributions to science at NASA.

Dr. Garvin’s scientific expertise spans several elements of Earth and Planetary sciences. He served as one of the founding fathers of the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) experiment and led the scientific investigation of impact cratering processes for Mars using MOLA topographic data. Garvin also served as the chief scientist (PI) on the two flights of the Shuttle Laser Altimeter (SLA) experiment on STS-72 and STS-85, from which the first measurements of tree heights from space were achieved. His scientific expertise includes the geology and geophysics of impact craters, the geomorphology of oceanic islands, and the geometric properties of sedimentary systems on Mars, Venus, and the Moon.

Dr. Jan McGarry

Lead for NASA’s Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging Systems

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Jan McGarry received her BA in Mathematics from Goucher College in 1974 and an MA in Applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1983. Jan has worked in Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) and Laser Altimetry since she joined NASA in 1974, developing instrument control software, software simulators, mathematical algorithms, and data analysis for ground-based, space-based and airborne systems. She started spaceborne laser altimeter work in the 1980s as part of the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter (MOLA) acquisition and tracking algorithm team. She continued altimeter work as a key member of the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) and Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) algorithm teams, the Geoscience Laser Altimetry System (GLAS) software simulator team, and the GLAS flight science receiver algorithm team.  Jan also developed the algorithms and software for the Airborne Multikilohertz Microlaser Altimeter (Microaltimeter) as part of NASA’s Instrument Incubator Program.

Jan recently completed work on the ICESat-2/ATLAS Instrument’s Flight Science Receiver Algorithms, leading a team that developed the onboard algorithms to determine surface echoes from background noise.  The implementation of these algorithms was needed to dramatically reduce the telemetry data volume to a sustainable level.  ICESat-2 launched in 2018 and the mission is meeting or exceeding all of its challenging goals.

Jan started SLR work on the development of what is now the NASA legacy SLR systems.  Around 2006 she became responsible for the development and operation of the primary ground station that successfully performed 1-way laser ranging to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) for over 5 years.  Jan is currently leading the design and development work on the Space Geodesy Satellite Laser Ranging (SGSLR) systems.  These systems will become NASA’s next generation of very accurate, totally automated SLR stations, replacing the current NASA legacy SLR systems that are located around the world and have been operating since the 1980s.

Dr. Xiaoli Sun

Research Physical Scientist, Planetary Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Lab

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Dr. Xiaoli Sun is a Research Physical Scientist at the Planetary Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). He was the Lead Engineer in the photodetector development and receiver performance analysis for various space lidar developed at NASA GSFC, including the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on the Mars Global Surveyor Mission and the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on the ICESat Mission. He was the instrument scientist for the Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER mission, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, and the one-way Laser Ranging system on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. He led the first two-way laser ranging experiment between the MESSENGER spacecraft and Earth over 24 million km in 2005, and the first lunar laser communication experiments from Earth to LRO at lunar distance in 2012. Recently, he has been leading the research and application of HgCdTe avalanche photodiode arrays for future swath mapping lidar and spectroscopic infrared lidar at NASA GSFC. He received the B.S. degree from Taiyuan Institute of Technology, Taiyuan, China, in 1982, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, in 1985 and 1989, respectively.

Mr. Javier Ocasio-Perez

Integration & Test Manager

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Mars Sample Return (MSR) – Capture, Containment and Return System (CCRS)

Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) 

Javier Ocasio-Perez is the mission integration & test (I&T) manager for the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) Project. Javier’s responsibilities include the integration of both the LCRD flight payload and the ground segment as well as the testing and verification of functionality of the entire LCRD mission. It’s a very exciting job, as Javier gets to lead a large team of engineers from not just NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, but also across the country from multiple partner organizations, including the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern, California, NASA’s White Sands Complex in Las Cruces, New Mexico and the Northrup Grumman Spacecraft provider at Dulles, Virginia. Getting that many people in sync and accomplishing LCRD I&T goals is challenging, but it is also very rewarding, especially working with such an amazing team like the one we have in LCRD. Javier is matrixed to the LCRD Project, and his home organization is the Engineering Technology Directorate (ETD), as part of the Flight Systems Integration & Test Branch.

Javier started working at NASA as a summer intern in 2007, and then did a student cooperative job (now Pathways Program) in 2008. Javier received a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus in 2009, and has been working full-time at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, since then. In addition to his work on LCRD, Javier is also the Integration & Test Manager for the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Capture Containment and Return System (CCRS), which will be returning the first Mars samples to earth in the next decade! Javier has worked on several flight projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Astro-H Mission, in collaboration with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), as well as collaborated on other NASA GSFC missions and projects proposal work. Javier is also the co-chair of the Hispanic Advisory Committee for Employees (HACE) at Goddard and an advocate for NASA’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity department not just for Hispanics but for all minorities on center.

Ms. Valerie Casasanto

Outreach Lead, ICESat-2 Mission,

UMBC and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Valerie Casasanto is the Outreach Lead for NASA’s ICESat-2 (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2) mission at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD. ICESat-2, was launched September 2018, and is currently taking precise height measurements of the Earth’s polar regions, land heights, tree heights and more using laser technology to track changes to melting glaciers and sea ice. 

From 2011-2015, Ms. Casasanto was PI for the NASA award, Beautiful Earth: Experiencing and Learning Science in a New and Engaging Way, to inspire and engage students and the general public in NASA Earth Science through music, visual arts, and indigenous perspectives. She has more than 20 years of experience in designing, and implementing earth and space science educational programs to diverse age groups in multicultural environments. She has an extensive history in microgravity experimentation on the Space Shuttle, sounding rockets, parabolic aircraft, and ISS. She developed the first commercial hands-on student microgravity experiments program on the Space Shuttle involving thousands of students (elementary-University) to inspire and engage them in STEM. She has managed and integrated student designed and PI science microgravity payloads on 15 space missions.

2021-08-20T12:20:06-05:00Tags: |

The Dark Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Everywhere we look we see normal matter: Stars, galaxies, planets, intergalactic gas, us. But that normal matter makes up only 4% of the entire mass/energy budget of the universe! What is the rest?! Dark Energy and Dark Matter. And we don’t know much about either. That’s right, we don’t really understand what makes up the majority of the mass/energy of the universe! Join moderator Dr. Joe Pesce and a panel of world-class experts as we discuss the facts surrounding these enigmatic components of our universe!


Dr. Joe Pesce

2021-07-07T13:23:53-05:00Tags: |

Girls in space

Often times, as children mature, they are told to leave that curious, creative-side behind. They are often told, “You cannot do both. You are either Right-Brained or Left-Brained.” This panel is living proof that curiosity, creativity, and STEM go hand-in-hand. The goal of this panel is to encourage the next generation to pursue their dreams, to think “outside of the box”, and to innovate in their own unique way via the introduction of a Sci-Fi graphic novel character who tackles a plethora of daily obstacles common to an African-American female scientist/engineer.


Sabrina Thompson, Sasha Buchanan, Telisa Daughtry, Teresa Spinelli

2021-08-17T11:30:20-05:00Tags: |

The Art of NASA: Visualizing the Future of Space

In the technically-focused world of NASA, art is crucial to explaining complex topics and engaging audiences. It’s the perfect blend of art and science! Join professional artists, designers, and modelers from Goddard Space Flight Center for a moderated discussion of art careers at NASA, the impact of art on NASA’s vision, and the role concept art plays in mission proposals.


Michael Lentz, Reese Patillo, Walt Feimer, Danny Baird

2021-07-08T09:01:01-05:00Tags: |

Sex & the sealife (or blue chicca-woo-woo planet)

The panel comprises a bunch of nerdy marine biologists who will be discussing some of the bizarre behaviors of marine species from orcas and elephant seals to giant squid – in particular details about marine reproductive behavior that would make even Aquaman blush. PG-13


Dr Ashley Scarlett, Dr Naomi Rose, Dr Craken MacCraic

2021-07-07T13:20:11-05:00Tags: |

Uncovering Mars through New and Future Missions

Earlier this year, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars. ExoMars, a joint program of the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, will launch to the Red Planet in 2022. These missions will address key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The ExoMars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, will traverse the Martian surface in search of signs of life. The Perseverance rover will collect and store core samples for a future mission to gather and return to Earth. In this session, NASA scientists will discuss what we hope to learn from these new missions and how current orbiters around Mars will support them.


Jen Stern, Scott Guzewich (panelist & moderator), Geronimo Villanueva, Giuliano Liuzzi

2021-08-03T12:21:08-05:00Tags: |

Dugongs & Seadragons

The time of heroes was over. It was a time for … not-quite-so-heroes! Join the cast of the Dugongs & Seadragons podcast for a live recording. Dugongs and Seadragons features an international collection of nerdy marine biologists playing Dungeons and Dragons while talking about marine science. The podcast has the unique honor of having been both a top 10 natural science AND gaming podcast in the US.


Chris Parsons, Joshua Drew, Remi Montcrieff, Erin Andersen, Ashley Soller + special guest

2021-07-07T13:21:06-05:00Tags: |

Pandemics in fact and fiction

Pandemic plagues — both manmade and natural — dominate the world of fiction. Books and shows like The Walking Dead, Utopia, and The Stand offer us ideals of post-apocalyptic heroism in the face of deadly viruses sweeping through the population. But as we’ve recently found, reality looks a lot less like zombies, and a lot more like huddling in your house. A panel of journalists, scientists and historians will discuss how fictional pandemics differ from real life, and how they are sometimes eerily similar. We’ll talk about the 1918 flu, the Justinianic plague, the coronavirus pandemic and other real-world examples, comparing and contrasting with their fictional counterparts. We’ll explore fictional tropes and how real viruses stack up. We’ll also discuss what fiction can teach us about living through a pandemic, and what real stories can give back to fictional worlds.


Alexandre White, Alfredo Garzino-Demo, Andrew Pekosz, Bethany Brookshire, Tina Saey

2021-07-08T09:05:01-05:00Tags: |

Warp Speed Ahead: Spacecraft in Fact and Fiction

From the TARDIS to Mars orbiters, from Space-X to X-Wings, spacecraft of all types hold an unparalleled grip on our imagination. Spacecraft present us with all the heady excitement of race cars, jet planes and a voyage into the unknown all in one. We know them by heart in their myriad wondrous shapes and forms: the NASA Voyager probes and Mars rovers, the laser gun-wielding fighters of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, the mighty Borg Cube and many more. In this panel four NASA scientists will discuss rocket and spacecraft designs and technology – past, present and perhaps far-off future – and answer audience questions about NASA exploration plans for our solar system, both human and robotic. This is a great opportunity for writers, artists, or just the curious to be inspired and ask questions to the experts.


Dr Conor A Nixon, Dr Giada N Arney, Dr Ravi Kopparapu, Dr Stefanie N Milam

2021-07-07T13:21:29-05:00Tags: |

Solving the Space Development Paradox

The Expanse depicts a robustly settled solar system teeming with intrigue, adventure, and possibility. Indeed, recent work has shown that the resources of the solar system are vast beyond imagining, and worth many fortunes. Despite all this bounty and already having the technology for much more aggressive human space activity, we have no Martian cities or asteroid mining camps. Why? The short answer is money. The sort of self-sustaining space settlement envisioned by sci-fi authors faces a fundamental paradox: it is too expensive to ship everything you need from Earth, but to get around that, you already need industry in space. Drawing on an academic paper he wrote on the topic, the presenter will argue that deploying orbital solar power relays will not only address some of the most pressing environmental and energy problems here on Earth, but can break the development paradox and kickstart meaningful space settlement.


Leet William Wood, PhD

2021-07-07T13:23:23-05:00Tags: |

Black Holes: Monsters of Destruction

Black holes. These enigmatic objects have fascinated us for over 100 years, and we are learning more and more about them every day, including direct imaging of the shadow of a supermassive black hole! Lurking in the centers of almost all galaxies, supermassive black holes are the true monsters in the universe. When they feed on passing gas and stars, they burst to life and power some of the most energetic astrophysical phenomena in the universe. Colliding black holes produce gravitational waves we are just starting to observe, and their extreme environments provide exquisite laboratories for the study of the laws of physics in ways we can’t hope to do on earth. Join moderator Dr. Joe Pesce and a panel of world-class experts as we discuss the facts surrounding these awesome monsters in the universe!


Dr. Joe Pesce

2021-07-07T13:24:28-05:00Tags: |

Taking science 20,000 Leagues Beneath Sea

From the 20,000 Leagues Beneath Sea to the Abyss, from Seaquest DSV and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea to the recent movie Underwater, the underwater environment has been a been a staple for science fiction. Even Star Wars has got in on the act with the underwater cities of Naboo in The Phantom Menace. In this panel we talk with a panel of ocean scientists about some of the most famous underwater science fiction epics – from the good to the bad, and even the ugly – and what it’s actually like to work and even live, underwater.


E. Chris Parsons

2021-07-08T08:35:33-05:00Tags: |

Star Trek Tech

Teleportation? Androids? Escaping a Black Hole? The possibility of humanoid or other forms of life on other planets? Star Trek contains advances in technology and science that push the limits of the human imagination. The National Science Foundation brings together a panel of scientists to discuss the tech behind Star Trek. These experts will explore breakthroughs in science that reveals the truth behind the fiction.


Dr. Samuel Scheiner, Dr. John Nichol, Dr. Joe Pesce, Dr. Timothy Brown

2021-07-07T13:27:00-05:00Tags: |

The Immortal Spacecraft

Space is a lonely place. For the most part, when a spacecraft is launched, it’s on its own, regardless of whether it ever needs assistance or not. It launches, operates, and is decommissioned alone, its lifespan limited by supplies that run out, imperfect human design, and the exceedingly harsh natural space environment. But what if we could find a way to make spacecraft self-sustaining? Able to be refueled, fixed, and upgraded by robots, ensuring their operational lifespans are no longer prematurely over? That is the promise of robots in space carrying out On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM). These three capabilities work together to make the concept of an immortal spacecraft not just science fiction, but one day, science fact. Join our NASA panelists as they walk you through the revolutionary robotic technologies that will help make immortal spacecraft feasible.


Jill Mcguire, Billy Gallagher, Brent Robertson

2021-07-07T13:22:50-05:00Tags: |
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