Kelly Fast grew up with views of both the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory outside her bedroom window. The observatory view won out, due possibly to heavy doses of Star Trek and Space: 1999 at a young age. Instead of going out on Saturday nights, she would set up her telescope to look at whatever could be seen through the Los Angeles light pollution. Her mom feared for her social life but her dad thought it was pretty cool.
Kelly received her B.S. in Astrophysics from UCLA and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park. While at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Kelly studied planetary atmospheres using ground-based observatories, such as NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. With the infrared heterodyne group at Goddard, she investigated ozone and atmospheric chemistry on Mars, winds on Titan, and the effects on Jupiter’s stratosphere of small body impacts. For a while after her production of a YouTube music video called “Hotel Mauna Kea,” she could not walk through a planetary science conference or the Hilo airport without being recognized. Her kids found the whole thing really embarrassing and refused to let her show it during school visits.
Kelly is the lead discipline scientist for the Solar System Observations program, program scientist for NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, a discipline scientist in the Near Earth Object program, and deputy program scientist for the MAVEN mission to Mars. Outside of NASA, she is the proud mother of two grown (but still embarrassed) kids, a guitarist in a church band, and that strange lady busily crocheting sweaters on the daily bus/subway commute.