NAE Member Robert D. Braun Awarded 2022 Yvonne C. Brill Lecture in Aerospace Engineering

Sat, July 30, 2022

Address on “Are We Alone? Grand Challenges in Solar System Exploration” Scheduled for October 4

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) are pleased to announce that Robert D. Braun, head of the Space Exploration Sector at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has been selected as the distinguished recipient of the 2022 Yvonne C. Brill Lecture in Aerospace Engineering.

Braun will present his lecture, “Are We Alone? Grand Challenges in Solar System Exploration,” on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at 2 p.m. EDT, in conjunction with the NAE Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Registration for in-person or virtual viewing of this lecture is free and open to the public.

Braun’s lecture will discuss the search for signs of past or present life beyond Earth, a profound human endeavor that has occupied a place in our consciousness since humans first looked skyward. This quest requires advances in space exploration capabilities, technologies, and knowledge while informing our future on our home planet and the pace of human exploration beyond it. After decades of hard work, and through an interconnected set of missions, NASA stands poised to address this timeless question along multiple arcs. Braun will describe the scientific opportunities, locales, technologies, and missions from which we may advance our understanding of the potential for life elsewhere in the universe. The goals and present status of multiple astrobiology missions planned for the next decade will be highlighted.

Braun has more than 35 years of experience as a space systems engineer, technologist, and organizational leader. He has contributed to the formulation, development, and operation of multiple space flight missions and is a recognized authority in hypersonics technology and the development of entry, descent, and landing systems.

Braun previously served as director for planetary science at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2020–2022), dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder (2017–2020), a faculty member of the Georgia Institute of Technology (2003–2016), and a member of the technical staff of NASA Langley Research Center (1989–2003). He has served as a tenured professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Colorado Boulder, and California Institute of Technology.

From 2010 to 2011, Braun served as the first NASA chief technologist in more than a decade. In this capacity, he was responsible for development of the agency’s technology and innovation policy and programs. He created and led the initial implementation of a spectrum of NASA technology programs designed to build the capabilities required for our nation’s future space missions. This activity spanned all ten NASA centers, industry and academia, and fostered partnerships between NASA and other government agencies.

Braun is a member of the NAE as well as a fellow of AIAA and the American Astronomical Society. He is the author or co-author of over 300 technical publications.

AIAA, with the participation and support of NAE, created the Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship in Aerospace Engineering to honor the memory of the late pioneering rocket scientist, AIAA honorary fellow, and NAE member Yvonne C. Brill. Brill was best known for developing a revolutionary propulsion system that remains the industry standard for geostationary satellite station-keeping.

The lecture emphasizes research or engineering issues for space travel and exploration, aerospace education of students and the public, and other aerospace issues such as ensuring a diverse and robust engineering community.

For more information about the Brill Lecture, please contact Rebecca B. Gray, AIAA,, 804-397-5270 (cell). For additional information on the NAE Annual Meeting, please visit the 2022 NAE Annual Meeting webpage, or contact L. Eileen Erickson, NAE,, 703-400-4401 (cell).

About AIAA

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, and follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

About NAE

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of the NAE is to advance the welfare and prosperity of the nation by providing independent advice on matters involving engineering and technology, and by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and public appreciation of engineering. Follow NAE on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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