NASA’S Exploration of the Cosmos

  • Speakers
  • Natalie WolchoverSenior Editor, Quanta Magazine
  • Portrait of Thomas ZurbuchenThomas ZurbuchenAssociate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate (2016 to 2022), NASA
Date & Time

About Presents
Presents is a free events series exploring the connections between science, culture and society. Join our scientists and special guests as they discuss the intersections of their work, followed by an evening of conversation over drinks. It’s an opportunity to hear new perspectives that may challenge your assumptions and stoke your curiosity. Meet interesting people who share a passion for ideas and discovery. Come for the conversation, stay for the connections.

NASA has been at the forefront of space exploration and discovery since its establishment in 1958. From the Apollo moon landings to the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s most legendary achievements started by asking the right questions.

As the leader of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate from 2016 to 2022, Thomas Zurbuchen identified questions that would bring us closer to answering some of humanity’s biggest mysteries: How did the universe begin? How is the universe evolving?

During his tenure, Zurbuchen led some of the agency’s most notable missions, including overseeing two Mars landings and the 2021 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now facilitating groundbreaking cosmological research.

Zurbuchen will sit down for a conversation with science journalist Natalie Wolchover of Quanta Magazine. Wolchover has spent much of her career covering space exploration. She recently won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for an article about the complexities of building the James Webb Space Telescope.

Join Zurbuchen and Wolchover as they chat about NASA’s contributions to science and some of the most exciting questions driving the agency’s scientific research efforts today.

About the Speakers:

Wolchover is a senior editor at Quanta Magazine covering the physical sciences. She also has bylines in Nature,, Popular Science and other publications. She has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Tufts University, studied graduate-level physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-authored several academic papers in nonlinear optics. Her writing has been featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best Writing on Mathematics. In addition, she has won several awards, including the 2016 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award and the American Institute of Physics’ 2017 Science Communication Award for Articles.

Zurbuchen served as associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate from 2016 to 2022 — the longest such tenure in NASA’s history. He was previously a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan. Zurbuchen is the founder of the highly-ranked Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship. He is a fellow and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and the Swiss Academy of Technology and Science. In addition, he is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Zurbuchen is the winner of multiple prizes and awards, including the Presidential Rank Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

To attend this in-person event, you will need to:

  • Register in advance
  • Provide valid photo ID upon entering the building
  • Present your digital or printed Eventbrite ticket confirmation; make sure it is for the correct event and that the name on it matches your ID

  • Wear a mask while in the auditorium and restrooms

At this time, all guests at the Simons Foundation must be over the age of 18.

Please note that when you enter the Simons Foundation buildings, you are attesting that you are not experiencing COVID symptoms and are not knowingly positive for COVID.

5:30 p.m. Doors open
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. In Conversation
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Reception

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