ScienceFest at StarFest!

Join us for a series of talks focusing on astronomy, space exploration, citizen science and space technology!  We’ve gathered together space scientists, astronomers, a cosmologist and a science writer for six info-packed talks and a future-looking panel discussion!

Guest speakers

Steve Bailey
Steve Bailey
Steve Bailey is the President of Deep Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, which he founded in 2001.  Steve worked on the Space Shuttle Program as a contractor, the Lunar and Mars exploration as a civil servant at NASA JSC, the Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Surveyor program as a Jet Propulsion Lab employee, and multiple planetary exploration missions and the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle as an entrepreneur. Steve was the Spacecraft System Design Lead for the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and he currently supports the Orion Program as well as Lockheed Martin Advanced Programs, including their Mars Base Camp concept. Deep Space Systems is providing the engineering camera system for Orion Exploration Missions 1 and 2 (EM-1 and EM-2)

Dr. Kenneth G. Carpenter
Dr Kenneth G Carpenter
Dr. Kenneth Carpenter is currently the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Operations Project Scientist and the Ground Systems Scientist for WFIRST at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He previously led, as Principal Investigator (PI), the Stellar Imager Vision Mission Study and the Fizeau Interferometer Testbed (FIT) technology development effort. He is currently a member of the “Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory” at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Carpenter earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in astronomy from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, USA and earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from The Ohio State University. During his NASA career, Carpenter has received nine Special Act Awards and seven Group Achievement awards. He has also published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers in astrophysical literature and has more than 90 other publications. He enjoys photography and is an enthusiastic fan of all things Joss Whedon, Star Trek and Disney. Carpenter credits both Star Trek and the 1964-’65 New York World’s Fair, which he attended as a child, with fueling his desire to work for NASA.

Dr. Christopher Grasso
Dr Christopher Grasso
Dr. Christopher Grasso is the principal engineer for Blue Sun Enterprises, Inc. He has developed software and sequences for a variety of deep space missions, including Spitzer Space Telescope, Mars Odyssey, MRO, Dawn, and Resource Prospector. He developed the Virtual Machine Language sequencing flight software for Spitzer, and versions have been used on fifteen deep space missions. He used VML to sequence the successful entry, descent, and landing of Mars Phoenix, and assists installing VML on other missions.


Dr. Pieter Kallemeyn
Dr. Pieter Kallemeyn
Pieter Kallemeyn works for Lockheed Martin Space Systems here in Denver.  A graduate of the University of Colorado, he’s been involved in the design and operations of NASA missions for over 28 years.  He’s currently the System Design Lead for the InSight Mars Lander, scheduled for launch in May of 2018.


Dr. Erin Macdonald
Dr. Erin Macdonald
Dr. Erin Macdonald is a speaker and consultant on the topic of space science in science fiction. ​Erin was a member of the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration during her years in academia. Additionally, she is the Global Resources Manager for World Space Week and the Colorado State Coordinator for 314 Action. She has appeared at StarFest before, and we welcome her back as part of the StarFest Science Fest activities.

Carolyn Collins Petersen
Carolyn Petersen
Carolyn Collins Petersen is CEO of Loch Ness Productions (, a fulldome production company. She is an award-winning science writer, with more than three dozen documentaries to her credit. Her latest book is Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive.. She was senior author for major exhibits at Griffith Observatory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Academy of Sciences. She writes regularly about astronomy on her own blog, TheSpacewriter’s Ramblings (\) and  for ( Carolyn studied education and astronomy at the University of Colorado, and earned a graduate degree in mass communications (science emphasis, and minor in telecommunications engineering) in 1996 from CU, where she also worked on a Hubble Space Telescope instrument team. She spent several years as an editor and writer at Sky Publishing. She is a speaker for Smithsonian Travels, and is a member of the American Astronomical Society.

Panels and Presentations

Planetary Exploration Briefing
The past year has seen some great accomplishments in planetary exploration: the launch and arrival of ESA’s ExoMars mission, the Juno mission’s arrival at Jupiter, and the launch of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission. This past year has also seen the selection of two new NASA exploration missions to visit unique asteroids, launching in 2021 and 2023. In addition, the Resource Prospector mission to the southern pole of the moon to demonstrate in-situ resource utilization is nearing “go for flight.” Chris Grasso and Pieter Kallemeyn will give an update on these missions and what lies ahead for space exploration.

Hubble Space Telescope: Advancing the Frontiers of Astronomy for 25+ Years
Dr. Carpenter will tell the story of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which has now been in orbit for more than a quarter of a century and, despite rocky beginnings, has revolutionized Astronomy and the public’s perception of the Universe. He will chronicle the development and servicing of HST, show some of the best examples of what it has brought us, and discuss its impact on our culture. He will close with a few brief thoughts on future NASA astrophysics and exoplanet missions that will continue our ambitious efforts to “see what’s out there.”

From Galaxies to the Serengeti: You can Do Citizen Science!
There’s a universe of science that you can do as a citizen scientist. Carolyn gives you a tour of some great activities that involve a little bit of your time, your computer, and some amazing data from geologists, botanists, wildlife scientists, and astronomers.

Mars Base Camp
Dr. Stephen Bailey presents an inside look at Lockheed Martin’s vision for human exploration of the solar system that connects to a thriving commercial space economy.

Hearing the Universe – The Story of Gravitational Waves
In 2016, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced the first ever detection of gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein 100 years earlier. In this talk, Dr Erin Macdonald will take us through the science behind gravitational waves, the various attempts at detection, and what the ability to detect spacetime means for science (and science fiction!).

Science or Science Fiction? Where Will Science and Tech Take us in the Future?
Panelists will take a look at technological advances we might see in the future. Some, such as transporters and warp technology are straight from the realm of science fiction. Others, such as human missions to Mars are right around the corner. What do our experts think? Come find out, and bring your questions!

Tomorrow’s Space Telescopes
Dr. Carpenter will chart out NASA’s plans for new Space Telescopes for Astrophysics and Exoplanet Studies during the next two decades and beyond. He will describe missions in development, including the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), as well as missions only being imagined for the future, such as a large, segmented UV-optical successor to HST, and even more grandiose observatories composed of multiple spacecraft and mirrors flying in formation to obtain ultra-high-definition images of the Cosmos.

The Moon or Mars
There has been much focus on sending humans to Mars soon. But is this the most practicable approach to exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit? The Denver Space Society will discuss the pros and cons of going to the Moon or Mars first and how to do it.

See The August Total Solar Eclipse!
On August 21, 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse that will pass across 11 states from coast to coast. Trust us when we say, YOU NEED TO SEE THIS! People who have experienced a total solar eclipse have described the experience as awe inspiring, and many have broken down in tears. Join us for a presentation on when, where, and how to view the total solar eclipse. This will be a highly visual presentation for what is by far the biggest astronomical event of the year, if not the decade!

Solar Viewing
Join the Denver Astronomical Society for a close up (and safe) look at our nearest star – the sun. We will have a solar telescope setup outside for viewing, and will be answering questions and providing information about the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21!