Alejandro R. Diaz – Commander
Mr. Alejandro Diaz has worked at The Boeing Company since 1998. During this time, Mr. Diaz has been able to participate in the day-to-day activities of how human space vehicles are designed, manufactured, integrated and launched. Mr. Diaz is presently a member of Boeing's Advanced Space Exploration Division in Huntington Beach, CA. In this capacity, Mr. Diaz is supporting NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation (CCTS) Program. Prior to his current assignment, Mr. Diaz supported NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and International Space Station (ISS) programs. His primary experience includes support to human space programs with an emphasis in Extravehicular Activity (EVA) – astronaut spacewalks. As a member of Boeing’s ISS EVA Subsystem, Mr. Diaz was part of the team responsible for ensuring external interface compatibility between the astronauts and ISS hardware. Mr. Diaz was able to SCUBA dive with astronaut crews in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at NASA JSC in preparation for ISS Assembly Operations. Mr. Diaz holds a Ph.D. in Astronautical Engineering from USC (2012), an M.S. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota (2009), an M.A. in Latin American Studies from UCLA (2004), an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from USC (2001), a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from UCLA (1998), and he is a graduate of the International Space University’s Space Studies Program (2002). During NASA’s 2013 Astronaut Selection Process, Mr. Diaz was selected by NASA as a Finalist Interviewee for the Astronaut Candidate Program. His career goals are to apply his professional and academic experience to advance human space exploration.
Peter Dimmick – Executive Officer (XO)
As long as I can remember I have always been interested in science and technology, though I credit my high school astronomy teacher for really focusing that interest on space. I grew up in western Maryland surrounded by woodlands, farms, and dark skies – a perfect combination for a budding interest in astronomy. After getting home from my high school robotics team, I would go outside with my grandmother and look at the skies for hours. More and more though I yearned to visit these places, rather than just look at their beauty though my telescope, and so I decided to focus my life’s goals on manned spaceflight. I graduated from Florida Tech in the spring of 2009 with a degree in ‘Interdisciplinary Science.’ Last year, I started taking classes towards a Master’s in Space Systems. I am currently a NASA Flight Controller at the Johnson Space Center. I’m in the PLUTO group, and we manage the computer and network systems onboard the ISS. These are not the computers that actually fly the station; rather, they are the systems that the astronauts and various payloads use for their daily operations. My goals are two-fold. I want to engage the public to get them excited about spaceflight again and to become an astronaut. Walking on the Moon is my ultimate objective. This is my motivation for applying to be a crew member at the Mars Desert Research Station. I want to show the public how fantastic exploration can be and why it’s important. I want to show them their universe and all the wonders within. I want to show them how science and technology can improve life for everyone right here on Earth. The path that led me here has been long and winding, and I consider myself very lucky to be afforded this opportunity.
Kavya Manyapu – Crew Engineer
Kavya K.Manyapu is a flight test engineer at the Boeing Company building NASA’s next Commercial Spacecraft, CST-100. She holds a M.S in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and a B.S in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and has worked on several space projects with various companies including Human Mars exploration studies. In 2010, she was selected as a crew member for an analog Mars Mission organized by Mars Society. She is a private pilot, a certified SCUBA diver, and presently training in Aerobatics. Apart from her day job, Kavya enjoys educating and inspiring students to pursue careers in Engineering and Science and has reached out to over 2000 students in the past 3 years integrating with various organizations including NASA Aerospace Scholars Program and Museum of Flight. She is also a professional Indian classical dancer and has won a National Award from the President of India titled ‘Balashree’ in 1999. Her distinguishing awards include Woman Engineer of the Year Award from the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI), Boeing Defense and Space Top Talent Award, Outstanding Alumna of the Year and Outstanding Engineering Student of the Year Awards from Georgia Perimeter College, Youth Achievement Awards from Telugu Association of North America (TANA) and Metro Atlanta (TAMA) among others. In addition, she is the Editor-in-Chief for Astronauts for Hire non-profit organization’s magazine and Chair of the Houston chapter of AIAA Space Commercialization committee. She is passionate about human space exploration with a lifelong goal of becoming an astronaut and believes in the universal applicability of space research for the betterment of our planet.
Humberto de las Casas – Greenhab Officer
Humberto De las Casas Zolezzi is a Peruvian student in the Department of Mechatronics Engineering at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. He chose to study this major because it integrates the fields of mechanics, electronics, and computer engineering, which are areas that he has always been interested in. He is also very intrigued with human space exploration research and plans to utilize his academic expertise to support the research that his crew will perform at MDRS. Mr. De las Casas has worked in various industries, including the brewing industry (Cervecería Nacional de Panamá, SAB MILLER), the automotive industry (NORMOTORS), and the fishing and boating industries (MARCO Peruana INC). He has participated in major competitions in the areas of mathematics, academic aptitude, music and business. In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball, soccer, cycling, and surfing; practicing Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu; and playing the guitar.
Joshua Borchardt – Crew Biologist / HSO
Josh graduated from North Dakota State University in 2012 with a BS in Biology, and is expecting to graduate with an MS in Space Studies this May. My research background has focused on biogeochemistry, specifically with wetlands. Lately, my research has been in Environmentally Closed Life Support Systems (ECLSS) and soil formation processes on Mars. In my free time I work as a wilderness guide for the non-profit status film "The Singing Wilderness," and am an avid rock climber, backpacker, and have been a professional SCUBA diver since 2006. Space exploration has always been one of my major passions, and ensuring our future explorers' success is extremely important to me.
Christopher Cokinos – Crew Journalist
An Associate Professor of English at the University of Arizona and Affiliated Faculty with the Institute of the Environment, Christopher Cokinos is the author of the literary nonfiction books ‘The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars,’ and ‘Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds,’ both from Tarcher/Penguin, as well as ‘Bodies of the Holocene,’ a lyric prose collection from Truman. He is co-editing an anthology called ‘A Literary Field Guide to the Sonoran Desert.’ His work has been praised or featured in such venues as the Chicago Tribune, Nature, Science, Natural History, “All Things Considered” and People. His poems, reviews, microfiction and essays have appeared in Poetry, Pank, Hotel Amerika, Whole Terrain, Science, Orion, the New York Times, and The American Scholar, among many other venues. Chris contributes essays semi-regularly to High Country News and the Los Angeles Times. He is the winner of a Whiting Award, the Glasgow Prize, a National Science Foundation Antarctic Visiting Artist and Writer Fellowship and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. Chris is at work on a poetry collection and a natural history of the wild cats of North America.
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