The Science Advisory Team
Prof. Dan Britt – Founder
Dr. Daniel Britt is a Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences at the Department of Physics, University of Central Florida. He was educated at the University of Washington and Brown University, receiving a Ph.D. from Brown in 1991. He has had a varied career including service in the US Air Force as an ICBM missile launch officer and an economist for Boeing before going into planetary sciences. He has served on the science teams of two NASA missions, Mars Pathfinder and Deep Space 1. He was the project manager for the camera on Mars Pathfinder and has built hardware for all the NASA Mars landers. He currently does research on the physical properties and mineralogy of asteroids, comets, the Moon, and Mars under several NASA grants and is the director of the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS), a node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). He has served as the Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society and the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America. Honors include 6 NASA Achievement Awards, election as a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society, and an asteroid named after him; 4395 DanBritt.
Mike Conroy – Project Manager
Mike Conroy leads the Florida Space Institute (FSI) Student Design Projects, integrating mentors and scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with FSI’s Colleges and Universities. This includes collaboration to identify project needs, development of project content and execution of projects benefit the Students, Universities and NASA. Mike also serves as the Technical Chair of the international Simulation Exploration Experience (SEE), a STEM/STEAM initiative integrating students, industry, professional associations and faculty for an annual, cooperative, Space Exploration Modeling and Simulation Challenge with bases on both the Moon and Mars. Mike has over 35 years of Space System Design, Development, Maintenance and Operations experience with NASA Projects, Programs and Initiatives and held positions ranging from System Engineer to Operations Manager to Chief to Program Representative across domains including Flight Systems, Ground Systems, Information Technology and Simulation. Roles varied from hands on engineering and integration to team leadership to program management and leadership of multi - center (NASA) teams. Mike led the modeling and simulation organization as a part of the Program System Engineering and Integration (SE&I) for the NASA Constellation Program. Also significant is the partnership with the State of Florida to capture and implement Orion Spacecraft assembly and integration for the State. He received numerous honors, and awards include NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. Mike is also a Porsche Club trained High Performance Driver Education Instructor, coaching drivers on vehicle dynamics and high speed driving on closed courses.
Jared Long-Fox - Chief Scientist
Jared Long-Fox leads science operations at Exolith Lab, integrating undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral researchers on collaborative and interdisciplinary projects internally and with NASA and other organizations worldwide. Jared has 9 years of experience in geophysical computational parameter estimation methods and numerical modeling, 7 years of experience in electronics and rover development, and 3 years of experience in flight hardware and software development. His current research includes experimental designs and geomechanical data analysis for the NASA COLDArm mission and the MMPACT mission. These missions are a collaborations with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Swamp Works through the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS) node of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). He also is part of the JPL-led team developing SPARTA to characterize the in situ mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties of planetary regolith. Jared serves as the Vice Chair of the Regolith Operations, Robotics and Mobility technical committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and serves on the Science Advisory Board of the Plant the Moon Challenge. Jared also mentors students in planetary science, with topics spanning computer programming, development of in-lab electronic and mechanical experiment hardware, flight hardware development, and autonomous control systems. He is also an avid snowboarder who has taught multiple people to safely enjoy winter sports.
Dr. Zoe Landsman - Chief Scientist
Dr. Zoe Landsman holds both a B.S. in Physics and a PhD in Physics with a Planetary Science specialization, from the University of Central Florida. Her research focuses on characterizing the surfaces of airless bodies using observational and laboratory techniques and thermal modeling. She currently works as a research scientist at the Florida Space Institute and serves as Chief Scientist for Exolith Lab. Working at Exolith appealed to her because it combines her scientific interest in the surfaces of rocky planetary bodies with the excitement of space exploration. Fun fact, in her free time she is a powerlifter!
Parks Easter - Chief Geotechnical Engineer
Parks Easter has a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering with a focus on Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Space appealed to him at a young age, from watching the space shuttle take off to attending Space Camp. Parks hopes to assist in humanity's expansion into space through ISRU and Geotechnical Engineering.
The Engineering Team
Lucas Weber - Chief Engineer
Lucas Weber is a UCF alumni with a bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering. He enjoys spending his time on woodworking projects, going to rocket launches, and watching the future of spaceflight become reality. He loves working at Exolith Lab where he can be a contributing part of the space industry as it enters a new space race on the way to the moon, mars, and beyond. With experience in both payload integration and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), Lucas can't wait to be among the many amazing engineers and scientists that send the first humans to mars and build a permanent colony on the moon.
Max Kuehn - Director of Engineering
Max Kuehn is the Director of Engineering at Exolith Lab where he focuses on curating a self-leading, autonomous team of engineers that aim to build the world’s largest regolith bin, develop and hone all team member hands-on fabrication skills, and ultimately develop into industry changing leaders that will push the boundaries of space exploration farther than ever before. As a UCF alumni, with a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering, Max’s journey in the space industry has been defined by multiple Northrop Grumman internships and clubs at UCF, where he was given the opportunity to experience and implement standard industry project management practices, and leadership principles, within many high value projects and teams. Max looks to continue to foster the next generation of leaders that will fulfill the ever-growing need for accessible space hardware testing right here in our own backyard, so that humanity’s push to the great beyond can not only stay on course, but accelerate!
Nico Afanador - Lead ISRU Engineer
Nicolas Afanador is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida. At Exolith Lab, He leads a team of ISRU Engineers in designing, engineering, and conducting research regarding solar sintering lunar regolith for additive manufacturing. Nico hopes that the work he does at Exolith Lab makes an impact on the future of space exploration and sustainability. In his spare time, Nicolas likes to travel, watch launches, work out, and be with friends and family.
Jessie Jolly - ISRU Lab Engineer
Jessie Jolly is an undergraduate aerospace engineering student at the University of Central Florida. He is passionate of space exploration and is fascinated by rockets and aircrafts. Jessie is also interested in aviation and hopes to get his pilot's license one day. At the University of Central Florida, Jessie was the treasurer of Fitness & Martial Arts (FMA), and was active in Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) where he was involved in NASA's RASC-AL project and AIAA's aviation competition. In his free time, Jessie likes to hike, rock climb, surf. His crafting hobbies include woodworking and crocheting and is always eager to learn something new.
Annalyn Connor - ISRU Lab Engineer
Annalyn is in her third year studying Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Physics and Astronomy at UCF, as well as a Technical Certification in Laser and Photonics at Valencia College. Annalyn has been fascinated with the Universe since she was young- watching launches at the Cape and inspired by her grandfather who worked on several Apollo missions. Annalyn is the Vice President of the Amateur Radio Club at UCF, a member of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at UCF, a part of Women in Aviation (WIA), and the Nation Association of Rocketry. Her dream is to pilot spacecraft on missions to Mars. Annalyn hopes her studies with 6dof sensors and optical imaging systems can aid in the sustainability of Earth as well as further space exploration by studying the environment and internal structure of other potential habitual planets. She believes Exolith Lab is essential in furthering this expedition and is so excited to be a part and research more on the behavior of our simulants.
Anna Metke – Executive Director
Anna Metke, Executive Director at Exolith Lab, is dedicated to building a Sustainable Space Economy, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing the next generation of space industry leaders. With over a decade of experience in business management and seven years in scientific research, Anna's expertise drives the development of regolith simulant and facility resources. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and continues to expand her leadership knowledge. Anna's journey in space resources began with Deep Space Industries, contributing to simulant production and business development. Her commitment to establishing a sustainable space ecosystem aligns with her passion for science, art, and nature. Beyond her work, Anna enjoys aerial dancing, hiking, and travel.
Konrad Krol - Director of Operations
Konrad Krol is a Senior undergraduate pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Central Florida. He currently directs all operations related to regolith simulant manufacture, sales, and distribution for Space Resource Technologies (SRT) at Exolith Lab. Konrad's role also involves leading efforts to manufacture the LHS-2E simulant for Exolith Lab's 130 ton Regolith Bin, for use in testing by prospective Lunar rovers and other equipment. Konrad leverages his background in manufacturing and industrial engineering in his role in many ways, but especially in the avid implementation of the Lean methodology and Toyota Production System (TPS). Through these efforts, Exolith and SRT are able to provide the ISRU industry with the most reliable, readily available, and highest fidelity regolith simulants.In the past, Konrad has held roles such as President of the UCF chapter for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-UCF) and the NASA Partnerships Co-Coordinator at SEDS-USA. Konrad continues to be involved in the space education community through continued membership of SEDS, as well as The Moon Society and The Mars Society.
Angela Ramirez - Marketing Manager
Angela Ramirez is a driven Marketing Manager at Space Resource Technologies and dedicated Outreach Specialist for Exolith Lab/Florida Space Institute, currently pursuing her Advertising/Public Relations degree at the University of Central Florida. Angela leads a dynamic team at Space Resource Technologies, orchestrating impactful social media strategies and inspiring future generations of space enthusiasts. She is also deeply immersed in Orlando's professional landscape, actively participating in influential groups such as Ad2Orlando and FPRA. Her commitment to innovative projects is evident in her creative approach to marketing, reflecting a passion for contributing meaningfully to the evolving landscape of space exploration and technology.
Karina Soto - HR Director / Operations Manager
Karina Soto is a recent Psychology graduate with a focus in Industrial Organizational Psychology at the University of Central Florida. As an Operations manager, she manages the operations team of 10+ to ensure optimization and efficiency in process improvements as well as daily manufacturing activities, including the process of making our simulants and packing and distributing our products for our customers worldwide. Karina also focuses on HR standards while implementing workshops and career growth for our employees. She is dedicated to creating a positive work culture and a supportive environment for our employees by implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and hopes to make a difference in the space industry.
Kiana Linnette Plaza - Operations Supervisor
Kiana Linnette Plaza is a senior in the College of Business at the University of Central Florida, pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Integrated Business. She is passionate about creating and implementing sustainable business models in the ever-developing space industry, and hopes to continue to improve process efficiency throughout the remainder of her career. Kiana is the Director of Special Projects in the Knights Association of Project Management, where she leads multiple teams of members to the completion of projects throughout the duration of the semester, including networking events for other business-oriented Registered Student Organizations, team-building events, and more. As an Operations Supervisor, she uses the skills developed through student involvement and relevant coursework to lead an operations team of 15+ members for the completion of Exolith Lab related activities, including producing our regolith simulant in large quantities (tonnes) and packaging and distributing our product domestically and internationally for our customers. As part of the Business Development team, her passion for Project Management allows for the organized completion of company projects in a timely manner, driving forward our growth! Kiana hopes to continue a career in Project Management in the space industry post-graduation.
Exolith Lab Team
Steven Elsaid - Lead Biologist
Steven Elsaid is a Research Specialist at Exolith Lab, focusing on astrobiology. With a profound enthusiasm for advancing ISRU in the field, Steven delves into the biological principles that underpin biomining, paving the way for innovative solutions in resource extraction. He is also at the forefront of ISRU plant growth research, leading groundbreaking investigations into the epigenetics of plant growth in lunar simulant, developing techniques to enhance biomass and seed germination of edible foods when grown in such substrate. He is also interested in the origins of life, particularly regarding the possibility of methanogenic life on our neighbor, Mars. His commitment extends to developing eco-friendly bioremediation methods, with a strong focus on phytoremediation and vermicomposting, thus contributing significantly to the future of sustainable space exploration and colonization. When Steven is not at the lab, he can be found gardening, working out, or spending time with his friends and pets.
Catherine Millwater - Undergraduate Researcher
Catherine is an undergraduate at UCF majoring in Physics on the Astronomy track, minoring in math. She is part of the Astronaut Scholarship class of 2022 and is on the executive board of the Astronomy Society at UCF. On campus she enjoys planning and running stargazing nights at the UCF Observatory. She measures the geotechnical properties of simulated regolith at Exolith, and her other research projects include exoplanet work with UCF exoplanets group and systems engineering with The Cornell SEA lab in cooperation with MIT AeroAstro. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and scuba diving.
Alexander Madison - Graduate Researcher
Alex is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering under his advisor, Dr. Julie Brisset. He has worked in space research for over 5 years and has been involved with a wide variety of projects. His previous research has consisted of lab projects involving the characterization of asteroid regolith simulants, lunar wheel traffic, and solar sintering. He has also worked on engineering teams for the development of suborbital and orbital flight payloads. His current research focuses on microwave sintering of lunar regolith for the development of a sustainable human presence on the Moon. In the future, Alex hopes to make an impact by leading technology teams to develop sustainable infrastructure for the Moon and Mars.
Kaaliyah McGaughy - Engineer Team Member
Kaaliyah McGaughy is an undergraduate student striving to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida. Kaaliyah found her passion for space in elementary school when her 5th grade class took at field trip to Kennedy Space Center. She immediately fell in love with the thought of space exploration when she saw the many large space crafts hanging from the ceiling. She knew her purpose in life was to create space crafts just like, if not better than, the ones she saw that enlightening day. With the work she does with Exolith Lab, she hopes to inspire little girls to be interested and excited to join the world of STEM because growing up she didn’t see a lot of women that looked like her in the field. Kaaliyah is on the Executive Board of the Caribbean Student Association and one of the captains of her dance team, Collision, at UCF and her hobbies include painting, drawing and reading.