NASA Mars Orbiters Have New Project Managers

New Project Managers for Mars Orbiters Dan Johnston (left) is the new project manager for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. David Lehman (right) is the new project manager for NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Both missions are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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April 17, 2013

PASADENA, Calif. -- Two NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars, both working long past their original prime missions, have new project managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dan Johnston is the new project manager for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and David Lehman is now project manager for NASA's Mars Odyssey.

Johnston has worked on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission from its inception in 2000, through launch in 2005 and during operations in Mars orbit since 2006. He was the mission's design manager during development. Later roles have included mission manager and, since 2010, deputy project manager.

Johnston, a Louisiana native, earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, worked in private-industry support of NASA space shuttle mission operations, and joined JPL in 1989. He lives in La Crescenta, Calif.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned more data than all other Mars missions combined, observing Mars' surface, subsurface and atmosphere in unprecedented detail and radically expanding our knowledge of the Red Planet.

"The project's major challenge is to balance the science that the mission is continuing with the needs for serving as a communication relay for rovers," Johnston said. "Keeping the orbiter in service is our number-one priority."

Lehman managed NASA's twin-spacecraft Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) Project from its inception in 2006 through the 2012 completion of its work orbiting Earth's moon.

Lehman's career has taken him from undersea to deep space. Before joining JPL in 1980, he was a U.S. Navy submarine officer. At JPL, his accomplishments have included managing NASA's Deep Space 1 Project, which tested 12 innovative technologies, such as ion propulsion and autonomous navigation, on its way to an asteroid flyby. Lehman holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from Colorado State University, Fort Collins. The New Mexico native now lives in Pasadena, Calif.

Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, began systematic science observations there in early 2002, and broke the previous record for longest-working Mars spacecraft in December 2010. The mission's longevity enables continued science, including the monitoring of seasonal changes on Mars from year to year, in addition to communication-relay service for Mars rovers.

Lehman said, "Odyssey is a major asset for NASA's Mars Program both for its science and as a relay. There is a lot of work being done by a lean team to keep it running smoothly."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built both orbiters and partners with JPL in spacecraft operations for both missions.

For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mro . For more about Mars Odyssey, visit http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey .

Jia-Rui Cook/Guy Webster 818-354-0850/354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
jccook@jpl.nasa.gov / guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

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