Event Spotlight

The Future of Space Exploration: Humanity’s Final Frontier

October 4th, 2018, 6-8 pm

Boeing Lecture Hall (1109 FXB)

Join AIAA’s UMich Student Chapter as we discuss the future of space exploration featuring leaders in the space industry. Do we know what’s out there beyond our pale blue dot? Are there planets like ours deep and far away? What new technology are we developing to find these planets (and maybe even travel and live there)?

The panelists below are eager to answer your questions and share their work in this revolutionary field. They’ll take your questions in person, but send in your questions to https://goo.gl/8YtbmL to guarantee it’ll get answered!


Jakob van Zyl - NASA JPL

Director of Solar System Exploration

Dr. Jakob van Zyl is the Director for Solar System Exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Previously, he was the Associate Director of Project Formulation and Strategy. Formerly, he was the Director for JPL's Astronomy and Physics Directorate. Van Zyl received an honors bachelor's degree cum laude in electronics engineering from the University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa. He received both his master's and his doctorate in electrical engineering from Caltech.


Van Zyl joined JPL in 1986 and held positions of increasing responsibility in the synthetic aperture radar program. In addition, he managed the Radar Science and Engineering Section, the Earth Science Flight Missions and Experiments Office, and the Focused Physical Oceanography and Solid Earth Program Office. He was appointed Deputy Director for the Astronomy and Physics Directorate in 2002. He has been an adjunct faculty member in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, University of Southern California, where he taught "Remote Sensing Systems from Space" from 1997 to 2001. Since 2002, he has been teaching "Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing" at Caltech.

Corey Brooker - Lockheed Martin

Lead Systems Engineer of Orion

Corey Brooker has been serving the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) within the Commercial Civil Space Line of Business at Lockheed Martin Space Company for the past 11 years. He leads the LM Orion Launch Vehicle Integration efforts between MPCV and the Space Launch System (SLS) for both Exploration Mission (EM)-1 and EM-2. He was recently graduated from the LM Executive Development & Growth Enhancement (EDGE) program. He is also leading the change effort for EM-2 to fly on the SLS Block 1B vehicle. In addition to his launch vehicle integration, he co-leads the Employee Engagement team for Orion. Previously, he led the technical management and integration of the Orion EFT-1 Mission with ULA on the Delta IV that flew Dec 5th, 2014 and supported the Systems Analysis efforts for Pad Abort 1 that flew May 6th, 2010.


Previous work experience includes over 12 years of Loads & Dynamics for launch vehicle development, design and production flights on the Atlas V and Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicles. He has been a part of 11 Atlas V and 10 Delta IV successful mission flights.


Corey holds a Bachelor’s (1994) and Master’s Degree (1995) in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan

Kiko Dontchev - SpaceX

Senior Manager of Dragon Ground and Launch Operations

Kiko Dontchev is Sr. Manager of Dragon Launch and Ground Operations at SpaceX. Kiko joined SpaceX in May 2010 leading development of Lithium Ion batteries for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. In 2013, he took on the role of lead engineer driving the design and build of the first engineering test vehicle for Dragon 2, SpaceX’s next-generation crewed spacecraft. In 2015, Kiko led the execution of a successful Pad Abort Test with the test vehicle, a key demonstration for ensuring astronaut safety during human spaceflight and was subsequently awarded a prestigious NASA Award for early career achievement. From there, Kiko went on to lead the development of the Red Dragon vehicle and propulsive landing capability of Dragon 2. In mid-2017, Kiko relocated to Cape Canaveral, FL where he know oversees all of Dragon Launch, Refurbishment and Human Spaceflight Operations.

Trudy Kortes - NASA HQ Space Technology Mission Directorate

Program Executive of Technology Demonstration Missions

Ms. Trudy F. Kortes is the Technology Demonstration Missions Program Executive in the NASA Headquarters Space Technology Mission Directorate, managing a portfolio of flight and ground demonstration projects at a value of approximately $300M annually for the Agency. The TDM portfolio includes extensive work in advanced communications, propulsion, robotics and autonomy, navigation, entry, descent and landing, and thermal technologies. Prior to this, Ms. Kortes served as the Chief of the Space Technology Project Office at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) John H. Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio since November, 2011. In this capacity Ms. Kortes managed $80M to $120M annually in technology advancement projects for space flight applications focusing on GRC core competencies in power, propulsion, and materials research and development.


Ms. Kortes has over 20 years of experience at NASA holding various institutional and programmatic positions at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C.


Ms. Kortes holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Michigan in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Houston. She resides in Westlake, Ohio with her husband and three children.

Debra D. Facktor - Ball Aerospace

Vice President and General Manager, Strategic Operations

Debra Facktor is the vice president and general manager, Strategic Operations for Ball Aerospace. She is an internationally recognized entrepreneur, a leader in the global aerospace and defense industry, and a dedicated mentor to the next generation of aerospace industry professionals.


At Ball Aerospace, she bridges commercial, civil, tactical and defense business units to align and execute a company-wide strategy that enables the company to deliver innovative mission-level solutions for its customers. She is the company’s senior executive in the Washington, DC area and leads Washington Operations, Marketing & Communications, and Strategic Development.


The guiding principle of Debra’s 30-year career is doing what has never been done before. As an engineer, entrepreneur and executive in the early space startup community, she helped pioneer the commercial space industry we know today. Earlier in her career, she set up joint partnerships with Russia and contributed to the U.S. policy to bring the country into the International Space Station.


Debra is an appointed member of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and an Academician of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). She holds both a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan and is an alumna of the International Space University summer session program in space policy and law.