The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Jan. 9, 2023, it has appointed an Indian-American as top technologist.
A.C. Charania becomes NASA’s new chief technologist, serving as principal advisor to Administrator Bill Nelson on technology policy and programs at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. He will lead technology innovation, the press release said. The top space agency’s associate administrator for technology is also an Indian-American, Bhavya Lal.
Charania’s mandate as chief technologist is to align NASA’s agencywide technology investments with mission needs across six mission directorates and his office oversees technology collaboration with other federal agencies, the private sector, and external stakeholders. The position works within NASA’s Office for Technology, Policy, and Strategy.
“Technology plays a vital role in every NASA mission. Making sure that we’re pursuing the best policy objectives allows this agency to continue to serve as a global leader in innovation,” Bhavya Lal, NASA associate administrator for technology, policy, and strategy, is quoted saying in the press release. “A.C. is an experienced leader in managing large, rapidly shifting technology portfolios. I am eager for him to apply his knowledge and enthusiasm at NASA,” Lal added.
Lal served as acting chief technologist prior to the appointment of Charania, whose first day working at NASA Headquarters was Jan. 3.
“The rate of advancement we seek in the 21st century is dependent upon selecting and maturing a portfolio of technologies into systems to execute our missions,” said Charania. “With this in mind, there are incredible opportunities in partnerships within and outside of NASA. I now look forward to the opportunity to work with the entire community to increase the rate of space and aviation progress.”
Before joining NASA, Charania served as vice president of product strategy at Reliable Robotics, “a firm that is working to bring certified autonomous vehicles to commercial aviation,” the press release noted.
Charania’s previous experience also includes working at Blue Origin to mature its lunar permanence strategy, Blue Moon lunar lander program, and multiple technology initiatives with NASA.
He previously worked in strategy and business development for the Virgin Galactic (now Virgin Orbit) LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle program. He also served in multiple management and technology roles at SpaceWorks Enterprises, including helping to incubate two startups, Generation Orbit and Terminal Velocity Aerospace.
Charania led the formation of the FastForward industry group focused on high-speed point-to-point transportation, was a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts fellow, and served on the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Commercial Advisory Board.
He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s in economics from Emory University.