MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEApril 13, 1999
YORBA LINDA NATIVE HONORED FOR OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD CAREER
She's spent the last 20 years exploring the solar system, but space scientist Dr. Linda Bies
Spilker of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory returns home to Yorba Linda this week to be
inducted into the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District's Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame program is set for Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. at the district's
Educational Services Center, 4999 Casa Loma Ave., Yorba Linda.
Spilker, who attended Placentia-Yorba Linda public schools from elementary through her
1973 graduation from Valencia High School, was selected for her remarkable scientific career. She
has held key roles on major space science missions that have explored four of the nine planets and
their many moons. She is currently the deputy project scientist on JPL's Cassini mission to Saturn,
which is guiding a robotic spacecraft to enter orbit around the ringed planet in 2004.
"I got a telescope when I was in the third grade, looked at Jupiter and other planets, and that
really got me hooked on science," said Spilker. "Alan Shepherd, John Glenn and the walk on the
Moon got me dreaming about being part of the space program." She now specializes in the study of
planetary rings, like those of Saturn, and the intriguing moons of the outer planets. The Cassini
mission will return a wealth of data about Saturn's rings and moons, especially the large moon Titan
which is thought to resemble a frozen, primordial Earth.
Though some counselors tried to steer her away from science and toward more
traditional women's careers, such as teaching or nursing, some teachers gave her tools that she
would use as a scientist. "My trigonometry teacher, Joy Appleby, really encouraged me in math,
and my speech and debate coach John Denike encouraged me in public speaking, which has helped
me explain space science and planetary exploration to all kinds of audiences." Both teachers are
still teaching high school in the district.
Most important, Spilker said, was encouragement from her parents, Bonnie and Art Bies,
who reside in Yorba Linda. They gave her the same advice she now gives to younger people, she
said. "Be sure and follow your dream," Spilker says. "That's what will lead to your most rewarding
After earning her bachelor's degree in physics in 1977 from Cal State Fullerton, Spilker
worked as a research assistant at the California Institute of Technology, helping to study meteorite
samples to learn more about the birth of the solar system.
Later that year, Spilker joined the team of scientists and engineers who flew the Voyager 1
and 2 spacecraft on their historic explorations of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. As with
several women colleagues on the Voyager team, Spilker timed the births of her two daughters,
Jennifer and Jessica, to occur in the four-year "downtime" period when the Voyager 2 spacecraft
was traveling between the planets Saturn and Uranus. During that time, she also earned her
master's degree in physics from California State Los Angeles in 1983, and later completed her
doctorate in geophysics and space physics at UCLA with highest honors in 1992. Her husband, Dr.
Tom Spilker, is also a JPL scientist working on the Cassini mission.
Spilker is the recipient of numerous awards, including NASA's Exceptional Service Medal
and the agency's Scientific Achievement Award for her work on the Voyager mission, and
Distinguished Alumna Award for Natural and Social Sciences from Cal State Los Angeles. Spilker
and her family reside in Monrovia.