Kelly E. Fast, Ph.D.

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Kelly E. Fast portrait

Kelly E. Fast is a Program Scientist in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. She serves primarily in the Planetary Defense Coordination Office which manages planetary defense related activities across NASA and coordinates with U.S. interagency and international efforts to study and plan a response to the asteroid impact hazard.  She is the Program Manager for the Near-Earth Object Observations Program tasked with “finding them before they find us” and more, and leads the Yearly Opportunities for Research in Planetary Defense (YORPD) research solicitation.  She is the Program Scientist for NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).

Previously, Kelly led multiple research and analysis programs in the Planetary Science Division, including the Solar System Observations program, Planetary Astronomy program, and Planetary Atmospheres program.  She also served as the Program Scientist for NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission.  Before coming to NASA Headquarters in 2011, Kelly was a research astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center working with a group that developed very high spectroscopic resolution infrared instrumentation to study planetary atmospheres, most recently the Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Wind and Composition (HIPWAC) used on ground-based telescopes.  Among her areas of research were ozone and atmospheric chemistry on Mars, atmospheric dynamics on Titan, and the effects on Jupiter’s stratosphere of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts in 1994 and an apparent asteroid impact in 2009.  She was a regular visiting astronomer at NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea, Hawai’i.  She served on the Joint Management Operations Working Group for the IRTF and NASA’s involvement in the W. M. Keck Observatory.  Main-belt asteroid 115434 (2003 TU2) was renamed “Kellyfast” in honor of her contributions to planetary science.

Kelly earned her bachelor’s degree in astrophysics at the University of California at Los Angeles and her master’s and doctorate degrees in astronomy at the University of Maryland at College Park with thesis research focused on the only direct measurements of ozone in the atmosphere of Mars possible from ground-based telescopes.

Known for belting out a song, Kelly loves science parodies and serving as a church instrumentalist and vocalist. Kelly is a ham radio operator under Amateur Extra license callsign N3XUJ and serves as a Volunteer Examiner and occasional Net Control Station in her local radio club.

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