An astronaut who flew four space shuttle missions. An expert on Mars exploration. A NASA hardware engineer. A NASA aerospace engineer. An Aerojet Rocketdyne engineer. And a Sacramento State professor who, with his students, is helping NASA with a planetary lander problem.

Sac State is reaching for the stars with “Space: The Final Frontier,” Monday, Feb. 27, in the University Union Ballroom. The two-part forum – a lecture and a panel discussion – is geared toward high school and college students but is free and open to all.

“We want to introduce students to the technology that enabled humans to make the incredible leap from Earth to the moon, with a probable next stop at Mars,” says Jaime White, director of Sacramento State’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement) program.

International Space Station

“They will walk away with a better understanding of why space exploration is significant and, perhaps, why Earth is so important to preserve and protect.”

“Space: The Final Frontier” begins at 2 p.m. with an hourlong talk by Firouz Naderi, former director of solar system exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. His topic is “How Did Us Humans Come To Be on Planet Earth, and What Is in Store for Us?” Naderi managed or supervised numerous projects during his 36-year career with NASA, including JPL’s robotic solar system mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, the Cassini orbiter at Saturn, and the Dawn spacecraft at the asteroid Vesta. When he retired from the JPL, NASA announced that the asteroid formerly known as (5515) 1989 EL1 would be renamed “Naderi.” 

Naderi will join five additional experts from 5 to 7 p.m. to discuss the future of U.S. space exploration. Lorenzo Smith, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, will moderate. 

  • Stephen K. Robinson, a former astronaut, flew on four space shuttle missions and was a backup flight engineer on the fourth expedition to the International Space Station. He is a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis.
  • Sarah D’Souza, a NASA aerospace engineer, worked on the International Space Station water-recovery system and the hypersonic reentry for the Orion Crew Module.
  • Stevan Spremo, a NASA engineer, designed hardware for the space shuttle, the International Space Station, COTSAT-1 (Cost-Optimized Test of Spacecraft Avionics and Technologies), and LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer).
  • Sam Wiley is director of Program Management of Advanced Space Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne and a graduate of Sacramento State’s mechanical engineering program.
  • Jose Granda, a Sac State professor of mechanical engineering, is working with his students to help solve a stability problem with a NASA prototype planetary lander.

“I hope this event will inspire Sacramento State students, as well as students from the local community colleges and high schools, to pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education,” White says. “I also hope that the current and former NASA scientists will discover our talented and committed students – and will look to Sacramento State when hiring interns and graduates.”

“Space: The Final Frontier” is presented by Academic Affairs, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Ehsan Hosseinzadeh, a MESA student who inspired and helped to organize the event.

For a free campus parking permit to attend “Space: The Final Frontier,” send an email to by Thursday, Feb 23. – Dixie Reid