HSL Thesis Defense: Maya Nasr (9a, 4/14, Rm 33-206)

Maya Nasr will be defending her doctoral thesis on Friday, April 14 at 9:00 AM ET. The defense will be hybrid: in Room 33-206 and on Zoom (details below). Faculty may view Maya’s thesis on the Wiki page. The thesis abstract is below.

Title:  “Innovation Challenges in NASA’s Planetary Program and a Policy Framework for Sustainable and Equitable Space Resource Utilization”

The overall goal of this research is to systematically study planetary technology innovation, its challenges, and paths forward in the space sector, from institutional, strategic, policy and legal vantage points. Part I of this thesis delves into the challenges and opportunities for innovation in planetary technology at NASA. Six technology case studies were analyzed to understand NASA’s enterprise architecture and its technology investment, development, and maturation frameworks, uncovering management and program challenges for efficient development and integration of innovative planetary technologies. The research identified policy and structural challenges and cultural challenges, highlighting the need for a fundamental shift in philosophy to incorporate new technology and risk into call for proposals. The research also assessed the difficulties faced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and suggested changes to its enterprise architecture. The Chaotic 2.0 architecture was found to be the most flexible and a pain point analysis conducted. An implementation strategy was proposed, and future-proofing analysis conducted to outline future phases of JPL’s enterprise architecture. Overall, the research provided valuable insights and recommendations for enhancing technology innovation and management within NASA and the broader space sector.

Part II of this thesis proposes a sustainable and equitable policy framework for space exploration and natural resource utilization. The research reviewed existing policies, laws, and guidelines, identifying gaps and inadequacies for space resource governance. Drawing from lessons learned from resource governance on Earth and historical policies, the research recommended best approaches for policy and governance for space resources. These approaches were adapted to the unique circumstances of space, resulting in an improved plan for international management of space resources as multinational exploration and ISRU increase.

Thesis Defense Committee:

  • Jeffrey Hoffman, Professor of the Practice of Aerospace Engineering, MIT (Chair)
  • Donald Rapp, Senior Research Scientist, JPL (retired) 
  • Tanja Masson-Zwann, Asst. Professor and Deputy Director, International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University
  • Dava Newman,  Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and Director of Media Lab, MIT 
  • Oliver de Weck, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics, MIT  (Reader)
  • Martin Elvis, Senior Astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Reader)


Location:  MIT, Room 33-206

Zoom Details:    https://mit.zoom.us/j/93015660566