June 14, 2004
At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., James K. Erickson becomes project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Project today as his predecessor, Richard A. Cook, switches to the development of an even more capable Mars rover for launch in 2009.
Cook becomes deputy project manager for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, the future rover mission whose project manager, Peter C. Theisinger, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project from its inception in mid-2000 until February 2004, when Cook succeeded him.
The rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January and successfully completed all of the predetermined criteria for mission success in the following three months. NASA approved an extended mission for getting bonus work out of the robotic geologists through September. Both rovers remain healthy, though the harsh martian environment could end their operations at any point. "We are adapting to a pace of sustained exploration of the two landing sites," Erickson said. "The fun part of the job is working with the highest caliber engineers and scientists. The challenge is to lead without getting in their way."
Erickson was project manager for NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter for three years prior to joining the rover project as mission manager in 2001. During 30 years at JPL, he has also worked on the Viking missions to Mars, the Voyager missions to outer planets and the Mars Observer mission. He earned a bachelor's degree in applied physics from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., and a master's in business administration and project management from West Coast University, Los Angeles. He lives in Glendale, Calif.
Cook was flight operations manager for the Mars Pathfinder project, which put a lander and small rover on Mars in 1997. He joined JPL in 1989 and worked on the Magellan mission to Venus prior to Pathfinder. He earned a bachelor's in engineering physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. He lives in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.