Mason Alan Peck
Professor Peck teaches at Cornell University and engages in research in spacecraft systems. His research focuses on innovating spacecraft architectures that exploit dynamics and other physics for performance. In 2011 he was named NASA's chief technologist, effective January 2012.
My long-term research objectives focus on what I see as the next frontiers in space-system design: spacecraft that exploit physics, particularly rigid and flexible dynamics at many length scales, to achieve innovative and surprising missions. My work represents initial steps toward the creation of a new field: a fusion of dynamical systems and systems engineering, two disciplines that are rarely considered in the same context. Innovation in space systems takes some courage; the industry and government environment is conservative. Risk aversion encourages a focus on short-term engineering products. However, research is characterized by emerging areas. A practical challenge for my work is therefore to establish these emerging areas as sufficiently low in risk that funding sources find them appealing.
My formal teaching responsibilities include the three formal classes I teach at Cornell: MAE 3060, Spacecraft Engineering; MAE 6060, Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Mission Design; and SYSEN 5100, Applied Systems Engineering. I have worked to evolve each course to meet the needs of the students and the highest possible standards of educational content and relevance. However, my teaching activities extend well beyond these three classes. I also supervise many students in their senior-design classes and M.Eng. projects, approximately 50 such students each semester.
My objective is to elevate Spacecraft Engineering at Cornell to the level of renown enjoyed by the Department of Astronomy. In Astronomy, credibility comes with new observations and new science, through active engagement in both ground-based telescopes and spacecraft-based observations. In Aerospace Engineering, credibility comes with flight projects: launch spacecraft. MAE has a history of recognition for its student team activities. My objective is to align student teams with research objectives so that students build the flight project in which I, as a principal investigator, embed fundamental research. My service to Cornell, in part, has entailed meeting this objective with the work described below.
- 2010. "Microsystems Assisting Humans on the Moon and Mars." Paper presented at 61st International Astronautical Conference - Prague, Czech Republic, October (4th Quarter/Autumn) 1.
- 2010. "An Air-Levitated Testbed for Flux Pinning Interactions at the Nanosatellite Scale." Paper presented at AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, Toronto, ON, Canada, August 5. .
- 2010. "Simulation of Multibody Spacecraft Reconfiguration through Sequential Dynamic Equilibria." Paper presented at AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference Toronto, ON, Canada, August 5. .
- 2010. "Stability and Control of a Flux-Pinned Docking Interface for Spacecraft." Paper presented at AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference Toronto, ON, Canada, August 5. .
- 2010. "Singularity-Free Constrained Steering Law for Triplet Control Moment Gyros." Paper presented at AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, Toronto, ON, Canada, August 5. .
Selected Awards and Honors
- Tau Beta Pi Eminent Engineer (Tau Beta Pi) 2011
- Cornell Merrill Scholar Mentor Award 2009
- Ralph S. Watts '72 Excellence in Teaching Award (Cornell University) 2009
- TBII Engineering Honor Society Annual Teaching Award 2009
- Cornell Merrill Scholar Mentor Awards 2008
- BA (English), University of Texas, Austin, 1989
- MA (English Language and Literature), University of Chicago, 1990
- BS (Aerospace Engineering), University of Texas, Austin, 1994
- MS (Aerospace Engineering), U Cal Los Angeles, 1999
- Ph D (Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering), University of California- Los Angeles, 2001