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Autonomous operations: expectations vs. reality

Tech & Sec Weekly


Dr. David Korsmeyer is the deputy center director at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Visiting Perth, Western Australia for the inaugural Indo-Pacific Space and Earth Conference and presenting on Autonomous operations: expectations vs. reality.

Most recently, Dr. Korsmeyer was the associate center director at NASA Ames for nearly two years and was responsible for the overall scope and direction of the center’s operations and facilities. He also managed the NASA Research Park – co-located at Moffett Field – which hosts academic, industry, and other government organizations. He is one of four senior center leaders guiding and managing NASA’s virtual institutes based at Ames, competitive internal research and development projects, and external research collaborations.

Korsmeyer previously has served as the associate center director for Research and Technology where he led the Center’s overall efforts in research, sciecne, and engineering developments that support NASA’s missions in aeronautics, science, exploration, and technology. Key achievements during this time included the successful initiation NASA’s next lunar rover, the VIPER or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. For six years prior to that role he was the director of engineering and led a broad range of spacecraft projects, proposals, and engineering support of technology, wind tunnels, and science experiments. Notably, he led the center’s expansion into small satellites and nanosats, including: NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE; numerous space biology instrumentation missions on the International Space Station, and the launch of 30 cubesats. For over nine years Korsmeyer served as chief of Ames’ Intelligent Systems Division, NASA’s premier research and development organization for artificial intelligence, robotics, and adaptive software supporting aeronautics and space missions, like the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. At Ames since 1991, Korsmeyer has been instrumental in the formation and management of many projects and NASA-wide technology programs in his early career. After receiving his Senior Executive Service certification in 2006, he supported key government initiatives including the 2009 Presidential Review of Human Spaceflight, and the 2020 Artemis Program Status Assessment. Korsmeyer regularly supports agency-level technology and engineering teams for NASA’s Aeronautics, Space and Technology, Human Exploration, and Science Mission Directorates at Headquarters. Korsmeyer received a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2011, and a Distinguished Presidential Rank Award in 2021.

Korsmeyer earned his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and both his master’s and doctorate in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in Austin. He is a Sloan Fellow with a master’s degree in Management from the Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and is active in the International Astronautical Federation, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

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