an Explore Mars Event

May 25-27, 2021

10:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT Daily


Terry Fong

NASA | Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group

B.S., Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1988)
M.S., Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1990)
Ph.D., Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University (2001)

Dr. Terry Fong is the NASA Senior Scientist for Autonomous Systems. In this role, he provides technical leadership on autonomy technology development to all NASA mission directorates. Dr. Fong is also Deputy Lead for the NASA Resource Prospector Mission lunar rover, with responsibility for software system engineering (navigation, remote driving interfaces, etc.).

Dr. Fong was formerly the Director of the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group (2004-2017) and the manager of the NASA Human Exploration Telerobotics project (2010-2017), which develops and tests advanced telerobotic systems on the International Space Station. From 2002 to 2004, Dr. Fong was the deputy leader of the Virtual Reality and Active Interfaces Group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne. From 1997 to 2000, he was Vice President of Development for Fourth Planet, Inc., a developer of real-time visualization software.

Dr. Fong has published more than 140 papers in space and field robotics, human-robot interaction, virtual reality user interfaces, and planetary mapping. Dr. Fong received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (2013) and the NASA Silver Snoopy Award (2013). He is currently an AIAA Associate Fellow and serves on the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee.

Technical Focus:
Autonomy is the capacity of a system to achieve goals while operating independently from external control. Autonomy is a critical, cross-cutting technology for improving performance and reducing risks for a wide range of NASA human exploration systems (crew vehicles, habitats, etc.), robotic systems (spacecraft, rovers, in situ systems), and aeronautics systems (airspace, airport, and aircraft).

Autonomy is most beneficial when: (1) the cadence of onboard decision making exceeds communication constraints (delays and communication windows); (2) time-critical decisions (control, health, life-support, etc.) must be made onboard the system, vehicle, etc.; (3) decisions are better informed by the richness of onboard data compared to the limited down-linked data; (4) local decisions improve manageability and robustness of overall system architecture and reduce complexity; and/or
(5) autonomous decision making reduces overall cost and/or improves effectiveness.

Future Plans:
Dr. Fong is interested in significantly advancing the autonomy capabilities of NASA human exploration systems and space robots.

Autonomy involves a wide range of component technologies, including activity planning and scheduling, task executives (for discrete and continuous control), diagnostics and prognostics, perception and state estimation. In order to address the needs of NASA missions over the next twenty years, development is required in each of these component technology areas as well as in fully integrated systems.