Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a project manager, a policy analyst, and an astronaut walk into a bar…

You know what? Never mind. It isn’t very funny — but it is fascinating. And if you are all caught up on Cosmos (because Neil. deGrasse. Tyson. am I right?), here are three Hangouts on Air that you can binge on right now.

First I have to say this, though: Neil deGrasse Tyson is no Carl Sagan…and Carl Sagan is no Neil deGrasse Tyson. In fact, let’s just say that Neil deCarl Tygan is pretty awesome.

Where was I? Ah, right. Your weekend edutainment, and it’s a hat trick:

  • Jeff Volosin, project manager for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) at Goddard Space Flight Center, talks about what it takes to lead a team to space engineering success.
  • Lisa Guerra, NASA Senior Policy Advisor and space systems engineer, answers questions about priorties and teamwork when the stakes are high and the problems enormously complex.
  • Greg Johnson, former USAF Colonel and test pilot, two-time NASA space shuttle pilot, and Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), talks about the joys of piloting the A-10, the mystery of the missing M&Ms, and the future of commercial and taxpayer-funded spaceflight (hint, we are all made of stars and will go to live among them one day…well, we’ll at least get as far as Mars).

I had the great pleasure of sitting in on these conversations, hosted by our own David Rose and featuring the questions and comments of our Intro to Systems Engineering students, so I know whereof I speak when I say that these are worth your time. It turns out that the women and men behind our still-young era of space exploration are really very down-to-earth folks. They are smart, they are insatiably curious, and they are disciplined, but at the end of the day they are no more immune to the wonder of it all than you or me. So put on your jammies, settle in to your favorite chair, and get to know Jeff, Lisa, and Greg:

Jeff Volosin

Lisa Guerra

Greg Johnson


Image of STS-134 Endeavour launch courtesy of Greg Johnson (adapted)