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 info-packed talks and a future-looking panel discussion!

Come Visit with Our Scientist Guests

The “Ask a Scientist” table is THE place where you can talk to our science guest speakers and ask your questions about astronomy and space exploration. It will be open after the morning science talks, from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. each day in the Atrium, and is the perfect place to chat with a scientist after their talks. See you there!

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 Project Scientist for WFIRST at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is currently a member of the “Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory” at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He has a PhD. in astronomy from Ohio State University. 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. Carpenter will give two talks this year, participate in the Future of Exploration panel, and will appear at the Meet and Greet as well as the “Ask a Scientist” booth in the atrium.

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, set for launch in May.

Dr. Erin Macdonald Dr. Erin Macdonald

Erin Macdonald has a PhD in astrophysics and currently works as a technical consultant both in engineering and for the entertainment industry. She is also currently the global education resources manager for the UN-directed World Space Week and hosts an online series on the science of sci-fi called “Dr Erin Explains the Universe”. Her PhD and subsequent research experience was in the UK on general relativity and gravitational waves with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. She loves teaching the public about space science, and can be found throughout the year speaking at sci-fi conventions across the United States. Erin is a tattooed sci-fi geek, self-appointed member of Slytherin House and graduate of Starfleet Academy.

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 “Space Exploration: Past, Present, Future”. She has written or co-written a number of books, including “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 ThoughtCo ( 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. In addition to offering talks, Carolyn will moderate the ScienceFest talks and panel, appear at the Meet and Greet and also at the “Ask a Scientist” table.

Panels and Presentations

The Future of Space Exploration

Our panel of science speakers shares thoughts and insights about where space exploration is going in the next few decades. With the launch of Falcon Heavy, plus plans for human missions to the Moon and Mars by NASA as well as other countries, are things heating up? Come find out from Chris, Erin, Ken and Pieter! Moderated by Carolyn Collins Petersen.

To Boldly See What No One Has Seen Before: Imaging the Surfaces of Distant Stars

While we are working to develop the technologies that will bring us to the nearest star systems and beyond, astronomers continue to probe those distant solar systems to understand better what we might find during those first visits. We often talk of the search for exoplanets, but equally important is our need to understand the central stars in those systems. Dr. Carpenter will describe the progress that has been made so far in resolving the surfaces of stars beyond the Sun, using both ground and space-based observatories, and then describe our vision of the ultimate space observatory for obtaining photographs of the surfaces of distant stars. Such a mission will consist of multiple mirrors spread out in huge, sparse arrays, such as the UV-optical Stellar Imager (SI) Vision Mission, with 30 mirrors precision formation flying with a beam-combining hub many kilometers distant.

Wolf 359 and Beyond: Searching the Federation for Planets Around Nearby Stars

NASA’s Dr. Ken Carpenter will describe the revolution that has occurred in the last 25 years in our search for planets around other stars. He will also give a special inside look at the new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and how it will expand our knowledge of such systems. Of particular interest to us, the mission will focus on Earth-sized planets around nearby stars, which will certainly become the best candidates for future members of the Federation!

Understanding our Trek through Space and Time: Exploring the Intersection of Art and Science

From the beginning, Art and Science have been inextricably intertwined, with one informing and motivating the other and improving our understanding and appreciation of both. Perhaps no other astronomical facility illustrates this better than NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST), whose images have appeared throughout modern culture. Its images appear in magazines and books, on the side of U-Haul trucks, on postage stamps, on greeting cards, in tattoos, in arts & crafts, on clothing, in movies and TV, in music videos and in fine art exhibits. Dr. Carpenter will explore all of these and highlight two on-going and forthcoming major Hubble Art and Science shows that seek to explore, as LA Fine Artist Simone Wright has said, this “intersection of Art and Science, where true discovery, creativity and innovation happen.”

Planetary Exploration Briefing: Deep Space Communications

Go on a fun- and fact-filled journey through NASA’s Deep Space Network, used to communicate with all NASA missions beyond geosynchronous orbit. Includes a real-time rendered flight through the solar system to visit several of our favorite spacecraft.

Planetary Exploration Update: An Inside Look at InSight, the Next Mars Mission

Next month NASA will be launching the InSight Mars Lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a seven-month mission to Mars. It will land near the Martian equator in November, and deploy two instruments onto the surface: a seismometer to measure the subtle vibrations of the crust, and a heat flow probe that will burrow below ground to measure sub-surface heat distribution. The lander will also use precision radio signals from Earth tracking stations to measure the motion of the Martian spin axis to high precision. These measurements will provide data for planetary scientists to understand the nature of the crust and core of Mars, and answer fundamental questions on how the inner planets formed. Pieter Kallemeyn is the leader of the spacecraft team that will monitor the mission from the company’s Mission Support Area in Littleton. He will give us an exclusive inside look at this exciting mission that will unlock the secrets beneath the surface of Mars.

Artificial Gravity and FTL Travel in Science Fiction

Dr Erin Macdonald (proclaimed at StarFest 2017 as a “Warp Drive Expert”) will be discussing the science behind gravity and spacetime, and the ways different science fiction universes solve the issue of artificial gravity and traveling faster than the speed of light. We will explore the feasibility of these methods and which ones are the most accurate — in theory, of course!

Science in Video Games

Erin Macdonald discusses her favorite examples of good and bad science in video games, from infrared cameras, to energy crystals and much more. Come with your best science questions… we may not have played your favorite game, but we’re happy to “Science It” to the ground!

Building a Space-faring Civilization

The history of space exploration began well over a thousand years ago in ancient China. Today, more than 75 nations around the world are involved in space exploration, including China. Carolyn takes you on a whirlwind tour of space exploration and the contributions of science, technology, engineering, arts, music, entertainment, law and education to our modern space-faring society.

Exploring the Kuiper Belt

What’s happening with New Horizons now that it passed Pluto? What did we learn from that mission? Come on a journey to Pluto and beyond to find out what scientists have learned and are expecting to find out as the New Horizons mission probes the outer solar system.