IRG 2021 Keynote Speakers

Esther Dyson is a well-known writer, speaker, investor, and entrepreneur. Beyond that, she is a trained cosmonaut: she spent six months (2008-2009) training as backup to space tourist Charles Simonyi in Star City outside Moscow. She is also an investor in Space Adventures/ZeroG (which organized her training), NanoRacks, and SpaceX, as well as in the Space Angels fund. She is a patron of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and a past member of NASA’s Advisory Council. In 2006 and 2007, she hosted the Flight School conference, focused on New Space and air taxis.

Dr. Mark Shelhamer is a renowned expert in the area of vestibular and oculomotor adaptation. Starting at MIT, he worked on sensorimotor physiology and modeling, including the study of astronaut adaptation to space flight. At Johns Hopkins he continued the study of sensorimotor adaptation with an emphasis on the vestibular and oculomotor systems. He has had support from NASA to study sensorimotor adaptation to space flight, amassing a fair amount of parabolic flight (“weightless”) experience in the process. He also serves as an advisor to the commercial spaceflight industry on the research potential of suborbital space flight. From 2013 to 2016 he was on leave from his academic position to serve as NASA’s Chief Scientist for human research at the Johnson Space Center.

Dr. Abraham (Avi) Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University. He received a PhD in Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, led the first international project supported by the Strategic Defense Initiative, and was subsequently a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Dr. Loeb wrote 8 books and over 800 papers on a wide range of topics, including black holes, the first stars, the search for extraterrestrial life and the future of the Universe. He serves as Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. He also chairs the Advisory Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative and serves as the Science Theory Director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Opening Reception Speaker

David Brin is a scientist, speaker, technical consultant and world-renowned author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction and philanthropy. He has served since 2010 on the council of external advisers for NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts group (NIAC), which supports the most inventive and potentially ground-breaking new endeavors.

Brin’s scientific work covers an eclectic range of topics, from astronautics, astronomy, and optics to alternative dispute resolution and the role of neoteny in human evolution. His Ph.D in Physics from UCSD — the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) — followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Space Institute and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Eridani Awards Banquet Speaker

Homer Hickam is the award-winning best-selling author of many books including the acclaimed memoir Rocket Boys that was adapted into the film October Sky. He was raised in the coalfields of West Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech. He is also a Vietnam veteran, a scuba instructor, a retired NASA engineer, an amateur paleontologist who has discovered numerous dinosaurs, serves on the boards of the United States Space & Rocket Center (Space Camp) and the Museum of the Rockies, and was appointed in 2019 as an advisor to the National Space Council. As a NASA engineer/manager from 1981 to 1999, he was involved in the design and fielding of the Spacelab, worked for several years in Japan to train the first Japanese astronauts, worked extensively in the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Neutral Buoyancy Simulator as a diver and a suited subject on such missions as the Hubble Space Telescope repair, and was assigned as the first training manager for the International Space Station. He is a confirmed Luna hugger and began pressing NASA to return to the moon with a tech manual on how to do it published by MSFC in 1992. His novel Back to the Moon was a best-seller in 1999 and he’s written three novels set in mining towns on the moon in his Crater series. For the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, he encouraged VP Pence to give the speech that resulted in the program now known as Artemis. His latest book is a memoir titled Don’t Blow Yourself Up that will have its worldwide premiere and be available at the 2021 Interstellar Symposia.