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How NASA is Exploring the Secrets of the Universe and Improving Life on Earth: a CIERA Interdisciplinary Colloquium by Thomas Zurbuchen

On May 13, 2024, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen presented CIERA’s latest Interdisciplinary Colloquium to 70 attendees from across the Northwestern community. Dr. Zurbuchen was introduced by Associate VP Research and Physics & Astronomy Professor Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano and his talk was titled “How NASA is Exploring the Secrets of the Universe and Improving Life on Earth: Role of Commercial and International Partnerships“. In it, he focused on handful of recent NASA missions, demonstrating the power of space as a frontier of discovery and highlighting the teamwork that made the impossible possible. In particular, Dr. Zurbuchen explained how NASA’s commercial and international partnerships are critical to NASA’s Science program – which involves both space and Earth-focused research. Through these partnerships, NASA aims to empower both robotic and human exploration and discovery to change how with think about the universe, our planet and life beyond Earth.

Currently a professor and leader of the Space Programs at ETH Zurich, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen was the longest continually serving head of science at NASA (2016-2022). As NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, he was responsible for all aspects of NASA leadership in space science. During his tenure, NASA launched 37 science missions and started 54, including JWST, two Mars landings, the Ingenuity helicopter, the Parker Solar Probe, and the DART mission. Zurbuchen also conceived and led the Earth System Observatory, an advanced multi-platform observatory that creates a 3D holistic view of the Earth, from bedrock to atmosphere.