Program Manager, Open Innovation Program
Nicholas Skytland (b. 27 April 1980) is a creator, designer, and technologist, with a passion for engaging all generations in the adventure of space exploration. He is continually working to help NASA embrace new technologies, increase public participation and innovate on how government does business.
Skytland is currently the Program Manager of the Open Innovation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he leads a motivated team of entrepreneurs and technologists who are responsible for directing the agency's Open Government Plan and Digital Government Strategy, with aggressive goals towards releasing more high value data sets online, pushing forward the use of open source technology, and creating participatory opportunities to engage citizens in NASA's mission. He has experience planning galactic-sized hackathons, envisioning future space exploration missions, designing next generation space suits, training space-bound astronauts, developing open-source technology and crafting new partnerships between government and industry. His current research focus is to better understand how governments can apply the art and science of mass collaboration to solve humanity's toughest challenges.
Previously, Skytland managed two science and technology projects for NASA’s Human Research Program, formed new collaborations with industry, academia and other governments in NASA's Strategic Partnerships Office, and trained astronauts for spacewalks at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Skytland has also worked in the private space industry at the Zero G Corporation helping other experience the excitement of weightlessness during parabolic flight and the X PRIZE Foundation where he was instrumental in the planning of the first privately funded, manned space launch of SpaceShipOne in the Mojave Desert.
Combining elements of space exploration, science, technology, visual art and storytelling, Skytland is well known for many of his presentations promoting human space exploration, citizen science, digital natives, social media, participatory exploration, and open innovation. He has spoken to numerous audiences, including the Pentagon, the United Nations, Disney Imagineering and many others around the world. His favorite speaking experiences include the Nobel Prize Public Services Summit in 2009 and the South by Southwest Interactive festival the past three years.
Skytland holds a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree from the International Space University in space studies and a MBA from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. In 2008 he was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Valparaiso University.
Born in North Dakota, he now lives in Texas with his beautiful wife and two adventurous sons.