Spaceflight Insider

Staff/About / Writers


Derek Richardson SpaceFlight Insider WriterDerek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter.

His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our coverage of the International Space Station. You can see his portfolio here. @TheSpaceWriter

SCOTT JOHNSON – Marshall Space Flight Center Correspondent

Scott JohnsonScott earned both a Bachelor’s Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first visited Marshall in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for testing. In 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked to maintain exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware.

Scott attended the STS-110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, MSL Atlas V and NROL-15 Delta IV Heavy launches. Most recently, he participated as a “citizen journalist” in the ULA Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 TweetUp and launch. Johnson serves as SpaceFlight Insider’s Marshall Space Flight Center correspondent. @scojo1969

JIM SHARKEY – Vandenberg Air Force Base Correspondent

Jim SharkeyJim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Space Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the Space Shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration.

Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004 and has been writing about NASA and space issues for since 2011. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch. @madscienceskill


Collin Skocik space shuttle Atlantis SpaceFlight InsiderCollin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.


Jim RiceDr. Jim W. Rice, Jr., is an Astrogeologist at the Planetary Science Institute, he has over 25 years research experience specializing on the surface geology and history of water on Mars. Dr. Rice is currently a Co-Investigator and Geology Team Leader on the Mars Exploration Rover Project (Spirit and Opportunity). Rice also has extensive mission experience as Associate Project Scientist on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey Orbiter Projects. He has been involved in Mars landing site selection and certification activities for every NASA Mars Mission since Mars Pathfinder. His career includes working for NASA, Astrogeology Headquarters of the United States Geological Survey, the Mars Spaceflight Facility located at Arizona State University and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory located at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Rice has extensive geological field experience studying a variety of Mars and Moon analog environments. He has been a leader and team member on numerous international geological field expeditions around the world including a 6 month long joint NASA/Russian expedition to Antarctica. This work included being a member of the SCUBA diving team to first investigate the perennially frozen lakes of eastern Antarctica. Rice has also served on numerous NASA Science Analysis Groups for manned missions back to the Moon and Mars. He has also trained and briefed NASA astronauts in geology and Mars exploration.


Heather Smith during Space Shuttle AtlantisHeather Smith’s fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. SpaceFlight Insider met Smith in 2012 and has worked with her to better cover the space exploration story.

Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as a writer/social media assistant for SpaceFlight Insider. Smith has represented SFI since the organization’s founding in 2013. @HeatherDSmith88


Laurel KornfeldLaurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ. Laurel enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.

Her writing has been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD. See more of her work here: Laurel Kornfeld. @plutosavior


Tomasz NowakowskiTomasz Nowakowski is the owner and operator of Astro Watch, a blog detailing key events in both space exploration and astronomy. Nowakowski was impressed at the level of coverage provided by the team at SpaceFlight Insider as well as the growing ranks of writers, photographers, sponsors and partners who have joined the SpaceFlight Insider movement. He reached out to SpaceFlight Insider’s founder to see if Astro Watch could become a partner with SFI and subsequently decided to join the team. His blog can be viewed here: Astro Watch. @Astro_Watch


Joe LatrellJoe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors. @photostospace


Rae BotsfordRae End is a freelance writer, with a particular affinity for stories about space and baseball (usually not simultaneously) and for research papers. Though her passion is for writing, she studied digital media and computer science at the University of Central Florida in an effort to expand her skills. She has a fondness for science fiction (from Isaac Asimov to Doctor Who), occasionally visits the Kennedy Space Center, is working to revise her first novel, and is allegedly a decent electric bass player. You can find a little more about her here: / @rae_bot

MICHAEL COLE – Glenn Research Center Correspondent

Michael ColeMichael Cole is a life-long space flight enthusiast and author of some 36 educational books on space flight and astronomy for Enslow Publishers. He lives in Findlay, Ohio, not far from Neil Armstrong’s birthplace of Wapakoneta. His interest in space, and his background in journalism and public relations suit him for his focus on research and development activities at NASA Glenn Research Center, and its Plum Brook Station testing facility, both in northeastern Ohio.

Cole reached out to SpaceFlight Insider and asked to join SpaceFlight Insider as the first member of the organization’s “Team Glenn.” He has since reported on numerous events from the historic center.

Larry Klaes

Larry KlaesLarry Klaes is an author, technical writer, and freelance journalist specializing in news and educational work on the sciences – with a special focus on space. An ardent supporter of bioastronomy and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Larry’s past endeavors include serving as the editor of SETIQuest magazine, as well as working for the Northeastern U.S. Regional Coordinator for The SETI League, and coordinator for the Columbus Optical SETI Observatory.

Larry was also President of both the Boston chapter of the National Space Society (NSS) and the Cornell Astronomical Society (CAS) and the co-founder and former editor of the Electronic Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic (EJASA).

Curt Godwin

Curt GodwinCurt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field.

He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative. @Crow_T_Robot

Bart Leahy

Bart LeahyBart Leahy a freelance technical writer whose career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, commercial space companies, and others. His career in the space industry began at NASA, where he supported the Constellation Program, Ares Launch Vehicles, the Ares I-X flight test, SERVIR program and the Space Launch System. As part of Zero Point Frontiers Corp., he provided technical writing support for Virgin Galactic, The Golden Spike Company, and other projects.

In addition to his work for Spaceflight Insider, Bart has written for, Ad Astra, and The Space Review. His professional blog, which shares insights about technical writing in the workplace, is Heroic Technical Writing. @scicheergopher


Paul Knightly

Paul KightlyPaul Knightly is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. Knightly began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, Knightly began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simulation at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today.

Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics. @PaulKnightly

Lloyd Campbell

Lloyd Campbell at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 with NASA's EFT-1. Photo courtesy of the author posted on SpaceFlight InsiderLloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space. @cycleroadie

Christopher Paul

Christopher Tew on SpaceFlight Insider

Christopher Paul has had a lifelong interest in spaceflight. He began writing about his interest in the Florida Tech Crimson. His primary areas of interest are in historical space systems and present and past planetary exploration missions. He lives in Kissimmee, Florida, and also enjoys cooking and photography. Paul saw his first Space Shuttle launch in 2005 when he moved to central Florida to attend classes at the Florida Institute of Technology, studying space science, and has closely followed the space program since.
Paul is especially interested in the renewed effort to land crewed missions on the Moon and to establish a permanent human presence there. He has covered several launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral for space blogs before joining SpaceFlight Insider in mid-2017.

Benjamin O’Brien

Benjamin O'BrienBenjamin O’Brien is a freshman at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he is enrolled in the Institute’s astronomy and astrophysics program. In his free time O’Brien enjoys Florida’s beach as well as spending time with his friends. O’Brien has had a deep interest in all of the space sciences with his primary interest being in the exploration and colonization of the planet Mars. O’Brien has had this passion since the tender age of six and is now pursuing his goals of working in the space community by getting actual experience in the trade.
O’Brien’s interest and drive to learn more about what is beyond our atmosphere has also led him to encourage others to come forth and to work to inform the public about its importance. To O’Brien, science is a form of exploration, and like the ancient explorers who set out for the unknown with the purpose to return and show the world what they had found, so is science a form of discovery that results in everyone being lifted higher. O’Brien is one of a number of Florida Tech students who have taken the opportunity to work with SpaceFlight Insider.

Tessamarie Benitez

Tessamarie Benitez on SpaceFlight InsiderTessamarie Benitez is a freshman at the Florida Institute of Technology majoring in astronomy and astrophysics. She currently resides at Florida Tech and enjoys nature, writing, and studying about space. Benitez has competed in various science-related competitions as well as writing-related tournaments. Benitez’s primary interest is in the physics of black holes. 
Benitez has been driven by her curiosity, determination, and strong-willed nature to explore the unknown. Through pursuing her studies at Florida Tech, Benitez is able to study what she finds interesting in depth with the help of experts in the corresponding fields. Benitez is one of a number of Florida Tech students who have taken the opportunity to work with SpaceFlight Insider.

Ryan Chylinski

Ryan Chylinski on SpaceFlight InsiderRyan Chylinski is a multi-disciplinary photographer, entrepreneur, and space science enthusiast from the flagship city of Erie, Pennsylvania. Chylinski received his BS from The Rochester Institute of Technology in, where he studied computer engineering at the College of Applied Science and Technology in Rochester, New York.
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Chylinski is now travelling full-time with the open-source photographic apprenticeship: and – inside a different kind of ship of the imagination. His work, and ongoing studies remain closely entwined: Chylinski’s out to ignite the cosmic perspective in artists and entrepreneurs and to inspire a personal exploration of the hidden universe in a very practical way.

Michael John McCabe

Michael John McCabe on SpaceFlight InsiderA native of Lonedell, Missouri, Michael John McCabe is a former Long Island Fire Fighter and Emergency Medical Technician. He is a non-active Florida EMT with 20 years of fire rescue experience. He is also a lifelong science fiction and space enthusiast. At the age of 10, he watched in his school classroom as the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51L exploded in 1986.

In 2008, he moved to the Sunshine State and works as a private tour guide per diem for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for a private company based in Orlando, Florida. McCabe is also the Manager at Wild Florida Airboats Photography Department. McCabe joined SpaceFlight Insider to become a professional photojournalist. McCabe has been a fan of SpaceFlight Insider since its inception in 2013. He reached out to ask how he could assist the website’s efforts to spread space flight awareness. As is so often the case, SpaceFlight Insider provided McCabe with an opportunity to prove himself and has done so, in an array of roles.