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July 28, 2008
 
 
 

NASA CIO;
FORMER NSA HEAD;
MOBILE GAMERS


 

Something about the idea of using the Internet in space makes us think of astronauts ducking out for a space walk and checking Facebook when their bosses aren’t looking. But that is not the case says NASA CIO Jonathan Pettus, presider over the agency’s $2 billion IT budget. He tells us NASA is testing the benefits of using the Internet to connect the space shuttle with mission control as well as systems aboard the shuttle on future missions to the Moon. “We’ve used the Internet to communicate with satellites, but we are still unsure if it is better than what we’ve been doing,” he says.

 

We met Jonathan last week at the agency’s E Street headquarters, where he told us his biggest project is overhauling the more than 20-year-old computer networks at the agency’s 10 regional space centers, including Greenbelt’s Goddard. “Each center uses a different system, so it makes it difficult for engineers – or really any employee - to share information from different sites,” says Jonathan, who splits time between D.C. and Huntsville, Ala., where his two kids are. By the way, although admittedly the reflections of our amateur flashes are sometimes distracting on wall pictures, doesn’t the one in the middle of that galaxy look downright artistic

 

Jonathan became agency CIO last year. He joined NASA in 1991 as a computer engineer before rising to be CIO at the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville. He was previously a software developer at McDonnell Douglas where he worked after graduating from the University of Northern Alabama with degrees in computer science and mathematics history. Being an Alabama native, we asked him if he roots for the Crimson Tide on football Saturdays. “No way; I hate Alabama,” he says. “Go Auburn.” See the interesting stuff you learn in Bisnow you won’t find anywhere else?


BIG DEAL NSA OFFICIAL NOW DOING BIG DEALS

 

Former NSA director and Air Force LTG Ken Minihan is running Paladin Capital Group’s Homeland Security Fund where he can combine his knowledge of military needs with Paladin’s financial expertise. “I could have taken a job with a big defense contractor, but I think I can make a bigger impact here,” Ken told us in his Pennsylvania Avenue office, where he’s searching for companies with disruptive technologies, along with dual use. “We want the companies we invest in to solve current military and government problems, but also translate to the private sector,” Ken says.

 

Ken came to Paladin after 33 years in the Air Force. Some of his most notable investments include Reston-based Arxan Technologies, a provider of anti-tamper software protection and Command Information, a Herndon-based provider of IPv6 solutions in the country. “We probably look at 100 companies for every one we invest in, but we want companies with technologies that can change the landscape of the market,” Ken says. When he is not working, Ken enjoys playing golf and sailing on his Arban Troller (we were sworn to secrecy on the boat’s name). He also does charity work for a number of foundations, including ThanksUSA, a non-profit that provides scholarships for the children and spouses of servicemen.


CELL PHONE HEAVEN

 

For anyone with 10 minutes to kill (certainly not us), Michael Powers’ iTunes-styled mobile game showcase Mpowerplayer is a savior. The site lets users preview more than 120 mobile games from developers such as EA Mobile and download them to their phone for a small cost by simply punching in their phone number. “We all have times in the day where we are waiting in a doctor’s office or for a bus and want something fun to do,” says Michael, one of our Top 35 Entrepreneurs Under 35.

 

We met Michael and VP of Bus Dev Joe Ariganello at their Reston office. Because the three-year old site has already drawn 1.5 million users and more than 15 million game demo views, they’re talking with several VCs. Michael grew up in San Antonio, and went to Princeton. He worked as a software developer for financial companies, before trying to tap into the mobile game network, but found it unorganized. “Sites listed games alphabetically, not by quality, so it was hit or miss what you got,” says Michael, who sets aside mobile games for board games with his kids during his off hours. How retro.

 
 
 
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