Professor Peck teaches at Cornell University and engages in research in spacecraft systems. His work focuses on innovating spacecraft architectures that exploit dynamics and other physics for performance. In 2011 he was named NASA’s chief technologist and served from January 2012 through December 2013. In that capacity, he served as the primary advisor to the NASA Administrator on matters of technology-investment strategy, roadmapping, prioritization, partnerships, intellectual property, and commercialization. His accomplishments at NASA included creating the Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Foundational Investments in Engineering Science program, developing NASA’s first agency-wide space technology investment plan in decades, and overseeing the establishment of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. In 2014, Peck received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his service to the space agency.

Photo of Mason Peck

“Cornell MAE has a history of recognition for its student team activities. My objective is to align aerospace engineering student teams with critical research areas in spacecraft dynamics and mission design. Student teams in the Space Systems Design Studio have designed and built the CUSat and Violet Student Nanosatellite projects that involve fundamental research in these fields.”


Professor Peck’s long-term research objectives focus on the next frontiers in space-system design: spacecraft that exploit physics, particularly rigid and flexible dynamics at many length scales, to achieve innovative and surprising missions. His work represents initial steps toward the creation of a new field: a fusion of dynamical systems and systems engineering, two disciplines that are rarely considered in the same context.

His areas of academic expertise include next-generation space-system architectures, mission design, and Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC). His background represents a breadth of leadership experience in space technology across academia, the aerospace industry, and DoD. It extends from early-stage theoretical work through flight hardware and mission operations. His research has been funded by DARPA, AFOSR, NASA, and several U.S. aerospace prime contractors. He holds 15 patents in space technology that stem from his work in the aerospace industry.



Professor Peck teaches Spacecraft Engineering (MAE 3060), Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Mission Design (MAE 6060), and Applied Systems Engineering (SYSEN 5100).  He has worked to evolve each course to meet the highest possible standards of educational content and relevance to students.

Peck has been recognized for his teaching with several awards, including the Robert and Vanne Cowie Excellence in Teaching Award (2006),  the Ralph S. Watts ’72 Excellence in Teaching Award (2009), and the TBP Engineering Honor Society Annual Teaching Award (2009).

Professor Peck’s teaching activities extend well beyond his classes. He serves as principal investigator for several student spacecraft projects through the Space Systems Design Studio. He also supervises students in their senior-design classes and M.Eng. projects, approximately 50 such students each semester.

Students have honored his mentorship role by nominating him for the Cornell Merrill Scholar Mentor Award, which he received in 2008 and 2009.



  • BA (English), University of Texas, Austin, 1989
  • MA (English Language and Literature), University of Chicago, 1990
  • BS (Aerospace Engineering), University of Texas, Austin, 1994
  • MS (Aerospace Engineering), University of California, Los Angeles, 1999
  • Ph D (Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering), University of California, Los Angeles, 2001