Speaker: Thomas Strikwerda

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Dr. Thomas Strikwerda, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Thomas Strikwerda grew up in Grand Rapids and was a member of the local amateur astronomy association. He contributed to the construction of the James C. Veen Observatory and worked as a presenter in the original Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Calvin College (Physics, 1971). He went on to obtain both an M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy (1977) from the University of Virginia.

Tom has been involved in a number of high-profile projects, including the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), which surveyed and landed on Eros (2001); the MESSENGER Mission to Mercury; and (most recently) New Horizons and its historic July 2015 encounter with Pluto. Additionally, mathematical procedures he developed for planetary tracking have been used on the Hubble Space Telescope. Currently he is the Program Area Manager for the National Security Space Mission Area. In this capacity he supervises project managers who lead programs of importance to our national defense, and monitors contracts, schedules, and quality of performance.

ABSTRACT: NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto captivated people around the world when it rendezvoused with the dwarf planet on 14 July 2015. This presentation will highlight the unexpected and perplexing discoveries and go behind the scenes to examine the unique spacecraft and the many challenges the science and engineering teams solved to make the amazing discoveries possible.