Mr. Jason Derleth is the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Program Executive for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). As an aerospace engineer and technology analyst he has experience at NASA Headquarters, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and private industry. He is also a writer, musician, and craftsman. Although he came late to “rocket science”, he discovered he has a knack for it.
He studied and was recognized for his writing at St. John’s College, where the unique program presented only original sources in philosophy, the history of math and science, music, language, and literature. There he won the prestigious Baird Prize for Science and the Arts for hand-crafting a cello.
Between these artistic accomplishments, he discovered another passion: science and engineering; becoming fascinated with many aspects of science, and how patterns emerged from chaos if one simply applied careful thought and logic to a problem. He taught himself modern calculus and physics while earning an Engineering Master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he worked on the Mars Science Laboratory as the project systems engineer, optimized spacecraft mission designs by iterating spacecraft models to examine 20,000 different architectures, and led a team that built a rover resource model. He also worked on the START team, optimizing technology development portfolios.
This background earned him a unique opportunity to go to NASA HQ for the Exploration Systems Architecture Study. He helped lead the effort to refocus NASA’s $2B exploration technology portfolio to match the new goal of returning to the Moon. For this work, he was awarded NASA’s Public Service Medal, and he was asked to stay at HQ. There he has supported first the Program Analysis & Evaluation as a project analyst, and then the newly formed Office of the Chief Technologist as a senior technology analyst.
After many years’ hiatus, Mr. Derleth has returned to writing in his spare time, and is dedicated to exploring other worlds in both reality and fantasy.