MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Diane Ainsworth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 17, 1998
O'NEIL NAMED MANAGER OF 2003, 2005 MARS SAMPLE RETURN MISSIONS
William J. O'Neil, who served as project manager of NASA's
Galileo mission to Jupiter at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, CA from 1990 to 1998, has been named manager of the
agency's first two Mars sample return missions, scheduled for
launches in 2003 and 2005.
O'Neil, who was appointed in mid-November, had served as the
chief technologist for the Mars exploration program in the
interim, overseeing all aspects of technology development and
implementation for NASA's long-range program of robotic
exploration of Mars. This summer he led a comprehensive effort
at JPL to redesign the architecture of the Mars sample return
missions to determine the best approach for these first-ever
Prior to his appointment as Galileo project manager, he
served as the Galileo science and mission design manager during
the spacecraft's development phase. The Galileo spacecraft is
continuing its extended science mission to study Jupiter's major
moons, atmosphere and magnetosphere. Galileo became the first
spacecraft to orbit an outer planet and penetrate its atmosphere.
On its circuitous route to Jupiter, the spacecraft also became
the first to perform close-up asteroid studies when it flew past
the asteroids Gaspra and Ida.
O'Neil's past assignments have included work, in the mid-
1960s, as a trajectory design and navigation engineer for the
Lunar Surveyor project, which became the first robotic spacecraft
to soft-land on the surface of the moon. He also served as
navigation chief on the 1971 Mariner mission to Mars, the first
U.S. spacecraft to orbit another planet, and navigation chief for
the Viking mission to perform the first soft-landings on the
surface of Mars.
Before joining JPL in 1963, O'Neil was as an aerospace
engineer working in 1960 at the Boeing Airplane Company in
Renton, Washington. From 1961 to 1963, he was an employee of
Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, CA.
O'Neil earned his bachelor of science degree with
distinction in aeronautical engineering in 1961 from Purdue
University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and his master of science
degree in aerospace engineering in 1967 from the University of
O'Neil is the recipient of NASA's highest award, the
Distinguished Service Medal, and Purdue University's
Distinguished Alumni Award. He also holds an honorary doctorate
from the University of Padova, Italy, home of the Galileo
spacecraft's namesake, 16th century astronomer Galileo Galilei.
O'Neil resides with his wife in Sierra Madre, CA, and has
three adult children.