NASA tech chief takes to Reddit for a spacey ‘Ask Me Anything’ session

So, you want to know why the International Space Station dumped Windows in favor of Linux? Ask NASA chief technologist Mason Peck. He’s doing an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit today, and he’s down to party.

Peck’s been in charge of NASA’s tech decisions since January 2012. He oversees the agency’s tech investments and also guides how future astronauts will use new innovations in missions to come. This means he has to work not only within the confines of government space programs, but he’s also working with commercial space companies and academic institutions.

Before you go asking him your questions, though, check out dude’s impressive background:

His research was sponsored by NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts, and one of his experiments currently lives aboard the International Space Station. He worked at Boeing, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Goodrich, Lockheed Martin, and Bell Helicopter, where he worked on the V-22 Osprey and a smaller tilt-rotor aircraft that later would become the BA609. He wrote 90 academic articles and holds 17 patents about space tech. And then he was a professor at Cornell. You know, like you do. No big.

So far on the thread, he says:

We need to create ways to help astronauts survive exposure to galactic cosmic rays and other hazards on the trip there and back. Getting there quicker would help. So that inspires the creation of advanced propulsion capabilities, but right now there’s nothing on the horizon to shorten the trip time enough so that we don’t have to worry about radiation.

I’m very excited by the prospect of citizen space, that is, individuals building their own space technology and launching it. Some incredible innovations come from the do-it-yourself or maker community, and I expect the renaissance in technology that makers represent will have a big impact on NASA’s future.

Right now, we’re working on the technologies that will get humans to an asteroid by 2025 and on to Mars in the 2030s. Some of those technologies include propulsion and navigation, but also technologies to protect astronauts from radiation on the trip there and back. Some day, the earliest explorers of the outer solar system and beyond will be robotic spacecraft, some may be as small as smart phones.

Image credit: NASA/Flickr

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