As director of the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), Jason Crusan serves as NASA’s senior executive, advisor and advocate on technology and innovation approaches leading to new flight and system capabilities for human exploration of space. He manages over 450 civil servant employees and 150 onsite contractors with an active portfolio of 20-30 technology, engineering and flight development projects. He leads integration with the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and programs within other HEOMD divisions including International Space Station and Exploration Systems Development.
Using an integrated approach that leverages public-private partnerships, industry, international partners, and academia, Mr. Crusan serves as the senior leader for AES across all NASA centers which involves: developing and maintaining critical human spaceflight capabilities; maturing new integrated systems, instruments, and ground systems; and delivering critical multi-million dollar flight hardware for NASA. He provides the executive management and leadership needed to develop effective technology development strategies, system acquisition strategies, contracting mechanisms, joint investment models and partnerships—in short, he develops the innovative approaches needed to maximize NASA’s access to new technologies and capabilities for human spaceflight.
Before becoming director of the agency’s new Advanced Exploration Systems organization in 2012, Crusan fostered innovation at NASA in many key roles beginning in 2005. He served as chief technologist for space operations, and successfully directed various technical and strategic initiatives as program executive or project manager. He was part of the Miniature Radio Frequency Program (Mini-RF), which flew two radar instruments to the moon to map the lunar poles, search for water ice, and demonstrate future NASA communication technologies. Currently, he also serves as the Director of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) formed to advance the utilization of open innovation methodologies within the U.S. government.
Crusan holds bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics, a master’s degree in computer information systems, and is currently a candidate for a doctorate in Engineering Management at George Washington University. Mr. Crusan is married and has two children.
Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya is a senior scientist and Principal Investigator of the Biomodel Performance Laboratory in the Space Biosciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center in California. Prior to working at NASA, Sharmila Bhattacharya earned her Master’s and PhD degrees in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, followed by post-doctoral research in Neurobiology at Stanford University.
At NASA Ames Research Center, she served as the Lead Scientist to develop different biological habitats for the International Space Station. Sharmila also served as the Acting Project Manager for Small Biological Payloads flying on Progress, Soyuz and shuttle missions. Later Dr. Bhattacharya served as Chief Scientist for Astrobionics and the Small Spacecraft Division, helping integrate science payloads on a variety of space flight platforms including free-flyers and small satellites. Dr. Bhattacharya has served as the Principal Investigator for the first shuttle flight experiment that utilized fruit flies (Fly Immunity and Tumors, or FIT) to understand the effects of space flight on the immune system. She is the principal investigator or co-investigator for at least six other biology-related spaceflight missions that have flown or are scheduled to fly between 2014 and 2018. Some recent spaceflight experiments that she has been involved with include using biological models to understand the effects of space on the cardiovascular system, neurobehavioral system and pathogen virulence. A study that is of particular interest to interplanetary small satellites is “Biosentinel”, which uses yeast cells to understand the effects of radiation on DNA damage, and is being developed as a secondary payload to fly on platforms such as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1). This payload and the associated hardware will be important in the context of future deep space missions.