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Bezos, Tyson join Pentagon’s innovation advisory board

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos poses in front of his rocket. Credit: Blue Origin

WASHINGTON – Jeff Bezos, the founder of commercial space company Blue Origin, and celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson are joining the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board to help transfer Silicon Valley culture and technologies to the U.S. Defense Department.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement July 26 at the new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Boston. The addition of Bezos and Tyson gives the 15-person board at least two members with strong space backgrounds.

Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the owner of The Washington Post, started Blue Origin in 2000 to develop a reusable suborbital spacecraft. The resulting New Shepard vertical take-off and landing vehicle has completed four successful test flights since late 2015, reaching an altitude of just over 101,000 meters during its June 19 outing. The Kent, Washington-based company expects to start conducting test flights with people on board in 2017 with commercial service to follow in 2018. Blue Origin is also developing the BE-4 engine for use ion New Shepard and United Launch Alliance’s planned Vulcan launch vehicle.

Tyson is one of the space community’s best-known celebrities with a proclivity for nitpicking the science in science fiction movies. He’s the director of New York’s  Hayden Planetarium, the author of 12 books, the host of  the Startalk podcast k and star of Fox Networks reboots of Carl Sagan’s classic television series “Cosmos.”

The advisory board is led by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Carter has asked the board to identify private-sector practices that the Pentagon could adopt. A first round of recommendations is expected in October.

The full list of board members includes:

· Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Alphabet Inc.

· Jeff Bezos, president, chairman and CEO, Amazon Inc.

· Adam Grant, professor, Wharton School of Business

· Danny Hillis, computer theorist & co-founder, Applied Inventions

· Reid Hoffman, co-founder, LinkedIn, and partner, Greylock Partners

· Walter Isaacson, president & CEO, Aspen Institute, former TIME magazine editor and Steve Jobs biographer

· Eric Lander, president and founding director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

· Marne Levine, chief operating officer, Instagram

· J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology, United Technologies

· William McRaven, chancellor, University of Texas System

· Milo Medin, vice president, Access Services, Google Capital

· Richard Murray, professor, California Institute of Technology

· Jennifer Pahlka, founder, Code for America

· Cass Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School

· Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author

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Bezos, Tyson join Pentagon’s innovation advisory board

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