Discovery Series: Stephen F. Wheeler

Date & Time: 
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 - 2:00pm

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Discovery Series Presents:

  • Topic: NASA Crew 88: Mars Desert Analog Research Mission
  • Date: March 1, 2022, 2:00 p.m. (CST)

NASA is planning a manned mission to Mars by 2033. In preparation for the mission to Mars, NASA jointly operates two Mars research stations, MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station) in the desert of Wayne County, Utah, and Flashline MARS (Mars Arctic Research Station) located on Devon Island above the Arctic Circle. Both research stations investigate various aspects of human factors, procedures, sustainability, materials, environmental suits, engineering and testing, and habitat viability in full simulation. 

Of the two NASA jointly operated research stations, the Mars Desert Research Station is the largest and longest-operating Mars surface simulation facility in the world. MDRS is operated in the Utah desert due to the geologic similarity to that of the geology of Mars. Mars Artic Research Station, conversely, is operated on Devon Island in the arctic due to its climactic similarity to the subzero temperatures of the Martian atmosphere.

Stephen F. Wheeler, Ph.D. Bio:
I have been a Principal Consultant for several of the largest computer consulting companies, including Cap Gemini America, Decision Consultants, Inc., and Wipro, Ltd.  Early in my career I served as Senior Systems Engineer for Compaq Computer Corporation in Houston, Texas. Prior to joining the UNT faculty I was a senior AI research scientist and consulting partner with Wipro, Ltd. My most recent contract was as a Data Scientist on the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics advanced analytics team performing advanced analytics on the F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter). Prior to joining the UNT faculty, I have served as Senior Professor of Information Systems for Keller Graduate School of DeVry University, Dallas, Texas, a position I held from 2002 to 2017. I have also held a faculty appointment at LeTourneau University.

My undergraduate (BSc.) degree is in Computer Science from Texas A&M University - Commerce, where I also received my Graduate (MSc.) degree in Computer Science with thesis research in Artificial Intelligence. I hold a Postgraduate (Ph.D.) degree in Artificial Intelligence from Walden University. My research domain was linear symbolic problem-solving systems utilizing Aspiration Search modeled on the Iterative-Deepening Alpha-Beta search procedure known as Negamax Fail-Soft Alpha-Beta. My Doctoral research also involved Natural Language Processing (NLP), and my dissertation is titled "A Performance Analysis of the Iterative-Deepening Alpha-Beta Search Procedure Under Variations of the Ordering Interval within a Chess Program." I am presently conducting unfunded postdoctoral research in intelligent problem-solving systems.

I am an FAA Licensed Commercial Pilot with an Instrument Rating and serve as a Transport Mission Pilot with Texas Wing, Group III of the United States Air Force Auxiliary with the rank of Captain (active). I have successfully completed the Squadron Leadership School, and I am the Aerospace Education Officer of my Squadron. I have achieved the Chuck Yeager Aerospace Education Excellence Award. I have also been trained in Emergency Services, and I have successfully completed the ICS-300 and ICS-400 Incident Command System certification.

I have also been a NASA Field Research Astronaut serving as Mission Commander of NASA / MDRS Crew 88 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, January 2010. My research and that of my crew of aerospace scientists was reported to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and NASA Ames Research Center to provide research data in support of the planned 2033 manned Mars mission.