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Moriba Kemessia Jah
March 23, 1971
San Francisco, CA, U.S.
|Education||Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University (BS)|
University of Colorado, Boulder (MS, PhD)
|Known for||Space Situational Awareness Programme, space surveillance and tracking, space traffic management, space sustainability|
|Institutions||University of Texas at Austin |
University of Arizona
Air Force Research Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
|Thesis||Mars aerobraking spacecraft state estimation by processing inertial measurement unit data (2005)|
|Doctoral advisor||George Born|
|Other academic advisors||Ronald Madler, Penina Axelrad|
Moriba Kemessia Jah (born 1971) is an American space scientist and aerospace engineer known for his contributions to orbit determination and prediction especially as related to space situational awareness and space traffic monitoring. He is currently an associate professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. Jah previously worked as a spacecraft navigator at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was a navigator for the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Exploration Rover, and his last mission was the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He is a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety and, the Royal Astronomical Society. Jah was also selected into the 10th anniversary class of TED Fellows. He also was selected into the AIAA class of Fellows and Honorary Fellows in the year of the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11. The AIAA "confers the distinction of Fellow upon individuals in recognition of their notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics and astronautics."
Early life and education
Jah was born in San Francisco, California to Elsie Turnier from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and Abraham Jah from Pujehun, Sierra Leone. Jah's parents divorced when he was 2 years old. He moved to Venezuela at the age of 6. Jah studied at the Cap(f) Pedro Ma. Ochoa Morales National Guard military high school in Venezuela.
Following his enlistment, he studied Aerospace Engineering at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott Arizona and earned a bachelor's degree in 1999. He was inspired to become an astrodynamicist by Ron Madler. As an undergraduate student, Jah was awarded a NASA space grant, which allowed him to investigate lunar gravity assist trajectories for Earth orbit plane changes.
He went to the University of Colorado Boulder for his graduate studies, earning a master's in 2001 and PhD, under the supervision of George Born, in 2005. During his PhD he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a navigation engineer, developing the navigation algorithms and performing orbit determination for several missions, including the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Exploration Rover. His doctoral thesis looked at aerobraking spacecraft, using an Unscented Kalman Filter to estimate the spacecraft trajectory and explore this as a possible way to automate aerobraking operations.
In 2006, Jah left NASA JPL and became a Senior Scientist at Oceanit Laboratories on Maui, where he used optical data to determine space trajectories. He was awarded the NASA Space Act Award "for the creative development of a scientific contribution which has been determined to be of significant value in the advancement of the space and aeronautical activities of NASA, and is entitled: Inertial Measurements for Aero-assisted Navigation (IMAN)" in 2007.
In 2007 Jah joined the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). He directed the AFRL Advanced Sciences and Technology Research Institute for Astronautics (ASTRIA) in Maui from 2007 to 2010 and then at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico until 2014. At Kirtland Air Force Base Jah was made mission lead in Space Situational Awareness and advised the satellite guidance and control program.
He left the AFRL in 2016 to become an associate professor at the University of Arizona. He served as director of the University of Arizona's Space Object Behavioral Sciences initiative. Here he developed techniques to track and understand the more than 23,000 human-made objects that are inside Earth's orbit, of which only ≈ 1,500 are operational.
In 2017, Jah joined the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. He is interested in non-gravitational astrodynamics and using big data in astrodynamics through a Resource Description Framework. He created ASTRIAGraph, the first knowledge graph database for space traffic management. The software is designed to monitor space debris and has been compared by Jah to the defence against the dark arts class of Harry Potter. He is building models of space debris that look to quantify the space object population.
Jah is concerned because the United States Strategic Command cannot accurately track all satellites, and their current data could be biased, noisy and corrupt. He gave formal congressional testimony to the Federal government of the United States in 2017, discussing a Civil Space Traffic Management system. He believes that we should create a global, accessible, and transparent space traffic management system, which would protect spacecraft from debris and a lack of monitoring.
He was elected to the International Academy of Astronautics in July 2018. Jah has served as a member of the delegation at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and chairs the NATO SCI-279-TG activity on Space Domain Awareness. He was appointed as Core Faculty to the University of Texas at Austin Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences in 2018 where he directs the Computational Astronautical Sciences and Technologies group (a.k.a. The CAST). He has discussed astrodynamics and space policy on NPR, the BBC as well as featuring in the National Geographic.
Jah first married Maria Renee Washington in 1991. After 8 years in 1999, he divorced Maria Renee Washington and married Cassaundra Renea Shafer in 2002.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Jah is also a Distinguished Scholar of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Jah's research interests are focused upon the detection, tracking, identification, and characterization of resident space objects. The goal is to quantify, assess, and predict the behavior of all resident space objects, both natural and human-made. Jah's published works span the areas of space situational awareness, space traffic management, spacecraft navigation, space surveillance and tracking, multi-source information fusion, and more recently the intersection with space security and safety. He has previously served as Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems and is currently for the Elsevier Advances in Space Research.
Awards and recognition
|2001||NASA Group Achievement Award and Aviation Week & Space Technology Laurel Award "for the superb navigation of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft to Mars"|
|2010||Elected to Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers|
|2011||Elected to Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics|
|2013||Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate Technology Transfer/Transition Achievement Award|
|2014||Elected to Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society|
|2014||Elected to Fellow of the American Astronautical Society|
|2015||Elected to Fellow of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety|
|2015||Elected to Fellow of the Air Force Research Laboratory|
|2016||University of Colorado Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award (DEAA)|
|2018||Elected as Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics|
|2019||Selected as TED Fellow|
|2019||Conferred as Fellow by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics "For thought leadership and innovative technical contributions in the fields of space situational awareness, space traffic management, and astrodynamics.”|
|2019||Selected as one of 25 "People racing to save us" of WIRED25 by the Wired (magazine) ”|
|2020||Selected as a Public Voices Fellow by the Op-Ed Project”|
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- Jah, Moriba Kemessia (2005). "Mars aerobraking spacecraft state estimation by processing inertial measurement unit data". Ph.D. Thesis. Bibcode:2005PhDT........64J.
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- "Momentum Member Spotlight â€" June 2016 : The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". www.aiaa.org. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
- Jah, M.; Madler, R. (2007). "Satellite Characterization: Angles and Light Curve Data Fusion for Spacecraft State and Parameter Estimation". Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference: E49. Bibcode:2007amos.confE..49J.
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