Alan Stern photo

Alan Stern

Associate Vice President, Southwest Research Institute

B.S. PHY 1978, The University of Texas at Austin
B.A. AST 1981, The University of Texas at Austin
M.S. ASE 1980, The University of Texas at Austin
M.S. CE 1981, The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. Astrophysics/Planetary Science 1989,
University of Colorado Boulder

Alan Stern is a planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant, and author. He leads NASA’s New Horizons mission that successfully explored the Pluto system and is now exploring the Kuiper Belt — the farthest worlds ever explored.

Before receiving his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1989, Stern completed twin master's degrees in aerospace engineering and atmospheric sciences at The University of Texas at Austin (1980 and 1981). His two undergraduate degrees are in physics and astronomy, also from UT Austin (1978 and 1981).

In both 2007 and 2016, Stern was named to the Time 100. In 2007 he was appointed NASA’s chief of all science missions. Since 2009, he has been an Associate Vice President and Special Assistant to the President at the Southwest Research Institute.

Stern currently serves as the chief scientist of both World View, a near-space ballooning company. In 2016-2018 he served as the board chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in Washington, DC.

His career has taken him to numerous astronomical observatories, to the South Pole, and to the upper atmosphere aboard various high-performance NASA aircraft including F/A-18 Hornets, F-104 Starfighters, KC-135 Zero-G, and WB-57 Canberras. Stern has been involved as a researcher in 24 suborbital, orbital, and planetary space missions, including nine for which he was the mission principle investigator; and he has led the development of eight scientific instruments for NASA space missions. In 1995, he was selected as a NASA Space Shuttle mission specialist finalist, and in 1996 he was a candidate Space Shuttle Payload specialist.

Stern has published over 320 technical papers and 50 popular articles. He has given over 500 technical talks and over 300 popular lectures and speeches about astronomy and the space program. He has written three books, The U.S. Space Program After Challenger (Franklin-Watts, 1987), Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System (Wiley 1997, 2005), and Chasing New Horizons (Picador 2018)

Stern lives in Niwot, Colorado with his wife, Carole. They have three grown children.