NASA Presents Science Fiction Versus Science Fact: What’s Possible Today and What We Can Expect Tomorrow Add To My List

June 8, 2024 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Please note: all times are displayed in the Pacific timezone. Timezone calculator

What ideas, questions, and challenges define the edge of possibility in the minds of NASA scientists and engineers? How will the mysteries they’re investigating in the present impact the world tomorrow? And which emerging concepts in deep-space exploration, Earth science, artificial intelligence, and robotics could serve as hooks for stories you have yet to write? A panel of NASA experts will discuss these topics and more, providing you with a window into the current state of their universe. Moderated by NASA engineer and SFWA author Dr. Katelyn Brehm (pen name), the panelists will answer audience Q&A and discuss all your burning questions about the cosmos.

Have a question for this panel? Submit it in advance to by May 26!

This event will be streamed for online participants. After this event ends, the panelists will also be available to chat with attendees in Pasadena in the hospitality suite.

This panel will feature:

  • Dr. Steve Chien ( is a Technical Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. He has played a key role in efforts to deploy AI software to numerous space missions including: Earth Observing One, Sensorweb, Mars Exploration Rovers, ESA’s Rosetta Orbiter, and the M2020 Perseverance Rover. Dr. Chien has been awarded four NASA medals for his work in deploying AI to space missions. He has also advised Congress, the Executive Branch, served on the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence ( and the Army Science Board. His work has been featured in venues such as the New York Times, CNN, Time, Wired, and Businessweek.
  • Dr. Jessie Christiansen is the Project Scientist of the NASA Exoplanet Archive, Research Scientist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, and TED fellow. Dr. Christiansen has worked on the NASA Kepler, K2, and TESS missions, searching the sky for exoplanets, and is helping plan for NASA’s next big flagship missions – the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, and the Habitable Worlds Observatory. Dr. Christiansen’s research is in the detection and characterization of exoplanets – planets around other stars – and studies of exoplanet populations, and she is currently the most successful woman planet hunter in the world.
  • Dr. Kimberley Rain Miner is a Climate Scientist and Program Manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Her research on climate risks has taken her to the planet’s extreme environments from the North Pole to Antarctica and Mt. Everest. Dedicated to science communication, Dr. Miner’s research teams have reached international audiences with features in the BBC, NYT, GQ, and a 2020 Guinness World Record. Before coming to NASA, Dr. Miner worked on climate security for the Department of Defense in Washington DC, and holds a research professorship at University of Maine and Virginia Tech. She is also writing a book on how younger generations can plan for climate change, to be released in 2024. Dr. Miner is a black belt, wilderness firefighter, and lives in a fishing harbor on the Pacific Ocean.
  • Dr. Vandi Verma is a JPL Principal Engineer and the Deputy Section Manager for the Mobility & Robotics section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is also the Chief Engineer for robotic operations for the Mars Perseverance rover. Her areas of expertise include space robotics, autonomous robots, and robotic operations. Notably, she developed onboard robotic arm collision detection and autonomous robotic arm positioning on Perseverance, and autonomous science targeting on Perseverance and Curiosity. She has been operating robots on Mars for 14 years and has also deployed robots in the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Atacama Desert. Prior to joining JPL, Dr. Verma worked at NASA Ames Research Center where she led the team that originated the PLEXIL programming language that has been deployed on rovers and human spaceflight projects.
  • Dr. Katelyn Brehm (moderator, pen name) is a Flight Software and Systems Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Currently, she is the Deputy Project System Engineer for the Roman Space Telescope’s Coronagraph. She was on the Fight Software team for Curiosity and wrote the fault protection and avionics management software for that mission which was then reused on Perseverance. She also developed the preliminary Flight Software architecture used on the Europa Clipper and Psyche missions. Kat spent four years as the Technical Manager for Show Control Software at Walt Disney Imagineering where she managed the animatronics and show control software product lines for Parks and Resorts worldwide. Most notably, she oversaw the implementation and installation of Galaxy’s Edge on both coasts.
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