.NET Rocks!

NASA Pathfinder Innovation Challenge

Episode #526 Thursday, February 18, 2010

Michelle Viotti and Dr. Jeff Norris from NASA along with Marc Mercuri from Microsoft talk to Carl and Richard about their joint project, the Pathfinder Innovation Challenge in which .NET developers can help NASA make sense of the mountains of data coming back from Mars.


Michelle Viotti

Michelle Viotti is the Manager for NASA's Mars Public Engagement Program, which covers formal education, informal education, and public outreach activities for missions in NASA's Mars Exploration Program. In this position, she leads a team of communications and education experts at JPL and coordinates the efforts of Mars-related education and public outreach activities undertaken by other NASA Centers and Principal Investigators at universities. Mars Public Engagement includes the Mars Student Imaging Project, Mars Robotics Education, Imagine Mars, the Mars Museum Visualization Alliance, among others.


Prior to her Mars involvement, Michelle was the Team Lead for the Universe theme at JPL, which covered the Origins Program and Fundamental Physics research. She also served as Media Relations Officer for this theme. Her first position at JPL was Senior Legislative Liaison for the Office of Legislative and International Affairs, where she was responsible for communicating information about JPL's space exploration goals, educational programs, and opportunities and contributions by and to industry. She has worked for JPL since January, 1996.


Before JPL, Michelle worked for Podesta Associates, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. Michelle also worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory for five years, first in New Mexico and then in Washington, D.C. She served as a legislative analyst, covering the Lab's non-defense technology development in high-performance computing, energy, environment, materials science, transportation, and health. In this role, she also contributed to community-relations and state-based initiatives that brought the Lab's educational programs to New Mexico students.


Her undergraduate degree is from Wellesley College and her masters is from Johns Hopkins University.

Jeff Norris

Dr. Jeff Norris is the supervisor of the Planning Software Systems Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His group develops operations systems for a variety of space missions including the Phoenix Mars Scout, Cassini Saturn Orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers-- for which his team was co-winner of the 2004 NASA Software of the Year Award. He is currently leading the development of the uplink system for the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory Rover mission and operations software development within NASA's multi-center lunar Human Robotic Systems technology development project. Jeff founded the JPL OPS Lab, an advanced agile development facility for the design, development, and deployment of mission operations software and human-robot interaction technologies. Jeff helped operate the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers as a Tactical Activity Planner during the prime mission. He received Bachelor's and Masters degrees in Computer Science from MIT, a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California, and lives with his wife and two children near Pasadena, CA.

Marc Mercuri

Marc Mercuri is Principal Program Manager for Blockchain at Microsoft. He leads the PM team for Microsoft's blockchain product portfolio.

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