NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission

Tony Spear, who oversaw NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission from its conception through successful landing on July 4, 1997, has retired from JPL.

Spear, a 36-year veteran of the Laboratory, was instrumental in coordinating all facets of spacecraft development -- such as flight hardware, computer systems and new technologies -- to produce the innovative Pathfinder lander and the Sojourner rover -- the first robotic rover ever to explore another planet. Pathfinder was the first mission to land on Mars since the two Viking landers came to rest on the red planet in 1976.

After Pathfinder successfully touched down in an ancient outflow channel known as Ares Vallis, about 850 kilometers (525 miles) southeast of the location of the Viking Lander 1, Spear stepped down as project manager and joined the Advanced Deep Space System Development Program, called X2000, to develop advanced technologies for future exploration of the outer planets of the solar system. Brian Muirhead, who had served as the Mars Pathfinder spaceflight systems engineer, was named to succeed him.

Before serving on the Pathfinder project, Spear led the initial studies for NASA's Discovery program of faster, better, cheaper missions. The Mars Pathfinder mission was the second in that series of fast-track, low-cost missions with highly focused science goals.

Spear joined JPL in 1962 and worked on a variety of engineering positions over the years. He served as manager of the 1989 Magellan mission to map the surface of Venus, manager of the synthetic aperture imaging radar instruments that flew aboard several Space Shuttle missions in the early 1990s, and was an engineer on the 1978 Seasat oceanographic satellite mission.

Prior to that, Spear worked from 1974-1975 as the Advanced Projects Planning manager for the NASA/JPL Deep Space Communications and Spacecraft Tracking Network. From 1962-1974, he worked in the Deep Space Telecommunications System for the 1964 and 1969 Mariner missions to Mars and the 1973 Mariner mission to Venus and Mercury. He also participated in the design of the lander and orbiter relay communications link for the 1976 Viking mission to Mars.

Spear received his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1962 from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA and his master's degree in engineering from the University of Southern California. He earned a second master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1968 from UCLA.

A native of Martins Ferry, Ohio, Spear served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1958, specializing in radio communications for jet fighters.

Spear is a resident of Pasadena, CA and has two daughters.


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