October 04, 2004
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has appointed Brian Muirhead as Chief Engineer. Muirhead had previously served as chief engineer for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, and was flight system manager and project manager of NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission, which successfully landed on the red planet and operated the Sojourner rover in 1997.
Muirhead brings more than 26 years of experience at JPL to this role, in flight systems engineering, space flight hardware development, technology development, and management. He has broad, hands-on technical experience gained through work on a variety of planetary and Earth science missions and technology projects.
The formation of the Office of the Chief Engineer at JPL, now headed by Muirhead, was announced on August 9. The office supports both the associate director for flight projects and mission success, and the director of the Engineering and Science Directorate. Muirhead's key responsibilities include: assuring that the highest level of engineering excellence is applied to all of JPL's missions; chairing the new JPL engineering board; representing JPL to NASA's Office of the Chief Engineers and NASA's Engineering and Safety Center; overseeing the independent review process; and advising the JPL director and associate director on technical issues and the launch readiness of projects.
"The establishment of the new Office of the Chief Engineer helps formalize JPL's longstanding practices of applying the highest level of engineering skill, performance and decision making to all our flight projects," Muirhead said. "I look forward to working with NASA and JPL's engineers and managers to continue to improve our engineering contributions to the exciting work of exploring deep space."
Muirhead obtained a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in 1977, and a master of science degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in 1982. After joining JPL in 1978, he worked on numerous projects, including the Galileo mission to Jupiter; the Shuttle Imaging Radar Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C that flew on two space shuttle missions; and Mars Pathfinder. Until November 2002, he was project manager of the Deep Impact comet mission, scheduled to launch in December. Muirhead has also been a group supervisor and section manager in the JPL mechanical systems section.
Muirhead has received NASA's Exceptional Achievement Medal for his work on the Shuttle Imaging Radar-C, and the Exceptional Leadership Medal for his work on Mars Pathfinder. He was named Engineer of the Year for 1997 by Design News magazine and awarded the 1997 Laureate for Space by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
Muirhead lives in La Canada, Calif., with two daughters, Alicia and Jenna.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.
Charli Schuler (818) 393-5467
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.