Thought Leader Series

Ignite your curiosity and grow your passion for space and science at our monthly Thought Leader Series. The best and brightest minds examine the significance of historic missions, share the latest news in space exploration and look ahead to the future of space travel. This immersive series takes guests beyond our walls to provide inspiring, engaging and educational learning experiences.

Upcoming Thought Leader Series presentation

November Thought Leader Series events

Two Thought Leader Series events will bring a flight-filled November to Space Center Houston.

On Nov. 8, the center will bring in experts from the space shuttle mission STS-95 to discuss the anniversary of John Glenn’s second spaceflight aboard the shuttle orbiter Discovery. STS-95 astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski, flight surgeon Dr. Phil Stepaniak and mission science investigator Dr. Bill Paloski will discuss sending a 77-year-old Glenn back into space.

On Nov. 15, the center will host a special evening with Apollo flight director Glynn Lunney. One of five flight directors during the Apollo Era, Lunney helped bring home Apollo 13 and was chief of the Apollo flight directors.

These two free events have limited seating, each event requires a separate ticket and tickets must be presented at the door for entry.

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STS-95: John Glenn’s Second Spaceflight – Nov. 8

In a wonderfully full life, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, served as a Marine Corps colonel, served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio and went back into space in 1998 aboard the shuttle orbiter Discovery.

His first trip into space was in a spacecraft about the size of a phone booth. His second trip had slightly more room (and five accompanying astronauts). Join us for a panel discussion with STS-95 astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski, flight surgeon Dr. Phil Stepaniak and mission science investigator Dr. Bill Paloski.

Glenn flew on STS-95 aboard Discovery, a nine-day mission during which the crew supported a variety of research payloads including deployment of the Spartan solar-observing spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Systems Test Platform, and Glenn’s investigations on space flight and the aging process.

Glenn returned to orbit 36 years, eight months and nine days after his first mission aboard Friendship 7. Medical research during the mission included a battery of tests on Glenn to research how the absence of gravity affects balance and perception, immune system response, bone and muscle density, metabolism and blood flow, and sleep.

NASA continues to study the aging process and the effect of being in low Earth orbit through its Health and Human Performances office. Space Center Houston’s first scientist-in-residence, Dr. John Charles, is a former head of the Health and Human Performance office.

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An Evening With Glynn Lunney – Nov. 15

Glynn Lunney had a long and storied career, beginning when NASA was founded in 1958 and ending nearly 30 years later during the Space Shuttle Program.

Lunney began his NASA career at the Cleveland Lewis Center in 1958 and was soon supporting the Space Task Group in Langley, Virginia where the Mercury Project was taking shape. He engaged in simulation planning, launch and re-entry studies, which led to focus on how trajectory control would be exercised in the new Mercury Control Center. This would be the role of the flight dynamics officer.

In that capacity, Lunney worked that console at Bermuda for several unscrewed Mercury flights and the last three crewed Mercury flights at the Mercury Control Center in Florida. He was selected to be a flight director for Gemini and Apollo, operating on many of those flights. Most notably, he orchestrated the return home plan for Apollo 13 and was chief of the Apollo flight directors.

After Apollo, Lunney used his skills to manage the transport craft for Skylab and the historic Apollo/Soyuz mission in 1975, which featured the first international rendezvous and docking. The emerging Space Shuttle Program created the need for a servicing function for payloads from NASA, the Department of Defense and the Commercial (Comsats) and Lunney managed that office.

Lunney then went to NASA Headquarters as deputy associate administrator for space flight and then one as associate administrator for operations before moving back to Houston to manage the Space Shuttle Program from its second flight through June 1985.

As an industry leader, he supported the Clear Lake Economic Partnership efforts, with one year as chairman, and the University of Houston at Clear Lake in their development planning.

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Past Thought Leader Series presentations

Apollo – The Golden Age of Spaceflight
with astronaut Walt Cunningham

Oct. 5

NASA Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer
Sept. 10

Hear from JSC director Mark Geyer on his new job, his public service career and the future of JSC and human space exploration.

Leading Women of NASA with Debbie Conder, Catherine Koerner and Vanessa Wyche
Aug. 24

Astronaut debrief: Expedition 54/55
Aug. 7

Movie premiere and Q&A with EVA 23 astronauts Luca Parmitano, Chris Cassidy and former ISS Chief Engineer Chris Hansen
July 14

Pioneers of Space Exploration
June 28

Retired astronauts Dr. Shannon Lucid, Dr. Rhea Seddon and Dr. Anna Fisher discuss their amazing experiences 35 years after classmate Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

Alan Stern and David Grinspoon discuss the New Horizons mission
May 12


ESA Director General Johann Woerner
April 19


A Conversation with Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise
March 16


Dr. John Logsdon talks John F. Kennedy, Project Apollo and the 21st Century Space Program
Feb. 21


Astronaut debrief: Expedition 52/53
Jan. 31


Q&A with author Andy Weir
Nov. 17, 2017


45th Anniversary of Apollo 17 Remembered
July 20, 2017


Apollo Lunar Surface Exploration – EVA and Lunar Rover
July 20, 2017


Saturn Booster Operations – Saturn V Launch and S-IVB Trans-Lunar Insertion
July 20, 2017


Apollo Landing and Recovery Operations and Astronaut Post-Landing Quarantine
July 20, 2017


Mars Exploration Forum with NASA Johnson Space Center Director and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director
Jan. 20, 2017