Starshot Leaders

Starshot Breakthrough Initiative


Pete Worden

Pete Worden, Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of NASA Ames Research Center

Prior to joining the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Dr. Worden was Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. He was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. He is a recognized expert on space and science issues and has been a leader in building partnerships between governments and the private sector internationally. Dr. Worden has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics and space sciences. He served as a scientific co-investigator for three NASA space science missions – most recently the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in 2013 to study the Sun. He received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine Mission to the moon. Dr. Worden was named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium ‘Laboratory Director of the Year’ and is the recipient of the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Innovator’s Award.

Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb, Chairman, Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee; Harvard University

Avi Loeb is a theoretical physicist who has written over 500 scientific papers and 3 books on astrophysics and cosmology, mainly on the first stars and black holes. TIME magazine selected him as one of the 25 most influential people in space. Loeb serves as the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, where he serves as chair of the Harvard Astronomy department, director of the Institute for Theory & Computation and director of the Black Hole Initiative. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics, and a member of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies.

Harry Atwater

Harry Atwater, Caltech, Starshot Lightsail Research Director

Harry Atwater is the Otis Booth Leadership Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology. Atwater’s scientific effort focuses on nanophotonic light-matter interactions. His work spans fundamental nanophotonic phenomena and applications, including active wavefront shaping of light using metasurfaces, optical propulsion of lightsails, quantum and 2D nanophotonics as well as solar energy conversion.

Atwater was an early pioneer in nanophotonics and plasmonics and gave a name to the field of plasmonics in 2001. He is Chair of the LightSail Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot program. Currently Atwater is also the Director for the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), a Department of Energy Hub program for solar fuels, and was also the founding Editor in Chief of the journal ACS Photonics. Atwater is a Member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher, and the recipient of the 2021 von Hippel Award of the Materials Research Society.

Wesley Green

Wesley Green, W.A. Green Consulting, Starshot Photon Engine Research Director

Wesley Green develops high power laser systems. He is a consultant with 20 years of experience in space vehicles, large optics, adaptive optics and directed energy. His focus is on coherent phased array lasers and compact laser systems for aircraft.

Philip Mauskopf

Philip Mauskopf, Arizona State University, Starshot Communications Research Director

Philip Mauskopf is a Professor with a joint appointment at Arizona State University in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics. His work involves development of new technologies for experimental cosmology and astrophysics as well as design and integration of new types of instruments for measuring signals from the most distant objects in the universe. This research includes development of new types of quantum limited photon detectors, optical elements and readout electronics and has applications in solid state physics, atmospheric science and quantum communications and cryoptography. Prof. Mauskopf has developed detectors and optics that have been deployed on space-based, balloon-borne and ground-based telescopes.

Kevin Parkin

Kevin Parkin, Parkin Research, Starshot Systems Director

Dr. Kevin Parkin is a British-born scientist who is best known for inventing the Microwave Thermal Rocket. In 2005, he was awarded the Korolev Medal by the Russian Federation of Astronautics and Cosmonautics. In 2007, Dr. Parkin founded the Mission Design Center at NASA Ames and developed its software architecture, having previously created the ICEMaker software used for spacecraft design by Team-X at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and several other organizations. From 2012-2014 he was the Principal Investigator and Chief Engineer of a project that built the first millimeter-wave powered thermal rocket and launched it.

Robert Fugate

Robert Fugate, Arctelum, LLC, New Mexico Tech

Dr. Fugate conducts a research program on atmospheric propagation physics, atmospheric compensation using laser guide star adaptive optics. Dr Fugate’s research program also includes the development of sensors, instrumentation and mount control of large-aperture, ground-based telescopes.

Jim Benford

Jim Benford, Microwave Sciences

Jim Benford is president of Microwave Sciences. He develops high-power microwave systems from conceptual designs to hardware. His interests include microwave source physics, electromagnetic power beaming for space propulsion, experimental intense particle beams and plasma physics.

Steven Chu

Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner, Stanford University

Dr. Chu was the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy from January 2009 until the end of April 2013. As the first scientist to hold a Cabinet position and the longest serving Energy Secretary, he recruited outstanding scientists and engineers into the Department of Energy. He began several initiatives including ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy), the Energy Innovation Hubs, the U.S. – China Clean Energy Research Centers (CERC), and was tasked by President Obama to assist BP in stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. Prior to his cabinet post, he was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. Previously he was the Theodore and Francis Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University, and head of the Quantum Electronics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Dr. Chu has numerous awards including the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for the laser cooling and atom trapping, shared with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Phillips. He holds 26 honorary degrees and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academia Sinica, and is a foreign member of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology.

Bruce Draine

Bruce Draine, Princeton University

Dr. Draine's research involves the study of the interstellar medium, especially interstellar dust, photodissociation regions, shock waves and the physical optics of nanostructures. In 2004 he won the Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ann Druyan

Ann Druyan, Cosmos Studios

Ann Druyan is an American author and producer specializing in science communication. She was the Creative Director of NASA's Voyager Interstellar Message and a co-writer of the 1980 PBS documentary series Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan (1934–1996), whom she married in 1981. She was an executive producer and writer of the follow-up series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, for which she won the Emmy and Peabody awards.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020), Princeton Institute of Advanced Study

Freeman Dyson was an American theoretical physicist and mathematician, known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. He was professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, a Visitor of Ralston College, and a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Lou Friedman

Lou Friedman, Planetary Society, JPL

Lou Friedman is an American astronautics engineer, space spokesperson and noted author. He was a co-founder of The Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Bruce C. Murray, and is now Executive Director Emeritus. He led Advanced Projects at JPL including development of solar sails, missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, comets and asteroids, and he was the leader of the Mars Program after the Viking Mission. He is currently consulting on NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission. He co-led studies of that mission and of Exploring the Interstellar Medium at the Keck Institute for Space Studies.

Giancarlo Genta

Giancarlo Genta, Polytechnic University of Turin

Giancarlo Genta’s areas of professional interest include vibration, vehicle design, magnetic bearings, and rotordynamics. He has written or co-authored more than 50 articles in professional publications and 21 books. He has published extensively in the field of SETI research.

Olivier Guyon

Olivier Guyon, University of Arizona

Dr. Guyon designs space and ground-based astronomical instrumentation that aid the search for exoplanets outside the solar system. He is an expert in high contrast imaging techniques (coronagraphy, extreme adaptive optics) for directly imaging and studying exoplanets.

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison, 100 Year Starship

Dr. Mae C. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship, a multifaceted global initiative to realize all the capabilities required for human interstellar travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years. Jemison was a NASA astronaut for six years and the world’s first woman of color in space. She is committed to applying space exploration advances to enhancing life on Earth, and draws upon her background as a physician, engineer, inventor, environmental studies professor, science literacy advocate, development worker in Africa, and founder of two tech start-ups.

Joan Johnson-Freese

Joan Johnson-Freese, US Naval War College

Joan Johnson-Freese is a University Professor teaching National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. As a political scientist, she is the author of seven books on space security, the most recent (2016) Space Warfare in the 21st Century: Arming the Heavens, and over 100 published articles, many with a particular focus on the Chinese space program. She was a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science from 2010-2014, has testified before Congress on space policy topics on multiple occasions, and regularly works with the media on space issues.

Pete Klupar

Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of Engineering, NASA Ames Research Center

Pete Klupar is interested in low cost, high technology efforts with an emphasis on space systems. He has developed and launched more than 50 spacecraft missions. He has spent time in industry, helping to grow a spacecraft startup from 4 employees to over 500. He has also worked in large organizations such as Boeing and Space Systems Loral. He has been involved in government space and aviation programs, most recently at NASA Ames as the director of Engineering. He has been instrumental in reducing the cost of high technology missions, developing several Faster Better Cheaper and Operationally Responsive Space efforts.

Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy

Jeff Kuhn is a senior Humboldt prize winner and Sloan fellow. He's a professor at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and was its Maui director for a decade. His PhD is in Physics (from Princeton) but he works often in astrophysical problems and on unusual optical and Infrared telescopes and detector systems. Some of his ideas are at the heart of telescopes like the Giant Magellan and the Daniel K. Innouye Solar Telescope.

Geoff Landis

Geoff Landis, SA Glenn Research Center

Geoff Landis is an American scientist, working on planetary exploration, interstellar propulsion, and advanced technology for space missions. Landis holds nine patents, primarily in the field of improvements to solar cells and photovoltaic devices, and has given presentations and commentary on the possibilities for interstellar travel and construction of bases on the Moon, Mars, and Venus. He is a fellow of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.

Kelvin Long

Kelvin Long, Interstellar Research Centre

Kelvin Long is a physicist, author and the Director of the Interstellar Research Centre. He has worked in the aerospace sector for around twenty years and he specializes in the subject of interstellar flight, with an emphasis on advanced propulsion concepts.

Phil Lubin

Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara

Philip Lubin is Professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, with research interests in experimental cosmology, cosmic background radiation (spectrum, anisotropy and polarization), satellite, balloon-born and ground-based studies of the early universe, fundamental limits of detection, directed energy systems, and infrared and far-infrared astrophysics.

Zac Manchester

Zac Manchester, Carnegie Mellon University

Zac Manchester is an assistant professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he leads the Robotic Exploration Lab. Zac pioneered the development of gram-scale ChipSat spacecraft, and has led numerous small satellite missions. His lab develops on algorithms to enable smaller, smarter, and more agile autonomous systems to explore land, sea, air, and space. Zac received a NASA Early Career Faculty Award, a Google Faculty Research Award, and was named a NIAC Fellow by NASA in 2021.

Greg Matloff

Greg Matloff, New York City College of Technology

Greg Matloff is an emeritus professor at the NYC College of Technology. He is an expert in deep space propulsion. Matloff is a fellow of the British interplanetary Society, a Hayden Associate at the American Museum of Natural History and a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics. His pioneering research in solar-sail technology has been utilized by NASA in plans for extra-solar probes as well as in consideration of technologies to divert Earth-threatening asteroids. He served as guest professor at the University of Siena, Italy.

Timothy Newell

Timothy Newell

Timothy Newell, Ph.D Physics Univ. of North Texas 1993, presently serves as a technical analyst for high power laser programs. His research background encompasses semiconductor diode lasers, quantum cascade lasers, thin-disk and fiber lasers.

Kaya Nobuyuki

Kaya Nobuyuki, Kobe University

Kaya Nobuyuki is vice dean of the graduate school of engineering at Kobe University in Japan. Noboyuki has performed numerous space and ground demonstrations. He and an international team from Japan and the European Space Agency successfully tested microwave beam control for an SPS using an ISAS sounding rocket and three daughter satellites deploying a large web: this was known as the “Furoshiki” experiment. He also played a central role in the demonstration of key solar-powered wireless transmission as part of the Orbital Power Plant.

Mason Peck

Mason Peck, Cornell University

Peck's academic research focuses on technology development for low-cost space missions, particularly in the areas of propulsion, navigation, and control. He is the former NASA Chief Technologist. He has worked closely with the US Aerospace industry for over 20 years, having held engineering positions at Boeing and Honeywell, and having served as a consultant in space technology. Peck has published articles on microscale spacecraft, next-generation propulsion, low-power space robotics and spaceflight dynamics. He is the co-author of three books on planetary exploration and spacecraft mechanisms.

Saul Perlmutter

Saul Perlmutter, Nobel Prize winner, Breakthrough Prize winner, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Saul Perlmutter is an American astrophysicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Perlmutter shared the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with Brian P. Schmidt and Adam Riess, for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Martin Rees

Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

Lord Martin Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995 and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010. Aside from expanding his scientific interests, Rees has written and spoken extensively about the problems and challenges of the 21st century, and the interfaces between science, ethics and politics. He is a member of the Board of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, the IPPR, the Oxford Martin School and the Gates Cambridge Trust. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute. Lord Rees has worked on gamma-ray bursts and on how the "cosmic dark ages" ended when the first stars formed. Lord Rees is an author of books on astronomy and science intended for the public, and gives many public lectures and broadcasts.

Roald Sagdeev

Roald Sagdeev, University of Maryland

Roald Sagdeev is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in 1966 from Moscow State University. He previously served for 15 years as Director of the Space Research Institute, the Moscow-based center of the Russian space exploration program, where he currently holds the title of Director Emeritus. Prior to his work with the Soviet space exploration program, he had a distinguished career in nuclear science, gaining international recognition for his work on the behavior of hot plasma and controlled thermonuclear fusion. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy, the Max Planck Society and the International Academy of Aeronautics.

Ed Turner

Ed Turner, Princeton University, NAOJ

Ed Turner is Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. Turner has worked extensively in both theoretical and observational astrophysics, and has published more than 200 research papers on topics including binary galaxies, groups of galaxies, large-scale structure, dark matter, quasar populations, gravitational lensing, the cosmic x-ray background, the cosmological constant, exoplanets and astrobiology – frequently, in all of these areas, with an emphasis on statistical analyses. His recent teaching activities at Princeton include courses in cosmology, in astrobiology and in media coverage of science, and he has been a member of the University’s Committee for Statistical Studies since 1992.