Robert T. Mitchell of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, has been named program manager of the international Cassini spacecraft mission now en route to Saturn and its moon, Titan. Mitchell assumes the post being left vacant by Richard J. Spehalski, who retires on June 5.
Bob Mitchell had served as project manager for NASA's Galileo Europa Mission since December 1997. James K. Erickson, who was deputy project manager for the Galileo Europa Mission under Mitchell, has been promoted to project manager. The Galileo spacecraft, launched in 1989, has spent the past 2-1/2 years studying Jupiter, its magnetosphere, and its moons. The spacecraft is currently in an extended mission focusing on Jupiter's moon, Europa, which may have liquid oceans beneath its icy crust.
Since joining JPL in 1965, Mitchell has worked on spacecraft trajectory design, mission design, and navigation for such planetary exploration projects as Mariner '67, Mariner '69, Mariner '71, the Viking Mission to Mars, and Galileo.
Before becoming Galileo project manager, Mitchell was Galileo mission director, and prior to that, Galileo mission design manager from 1979 to 1988. From 1988 to 1993, Mitchell managed JPL's overall Mission Design Section, and from 1993 through 1996, he managed the Galileo Science and Sequence Office.
When the Galileo launch was delayed from January 1982 to October 1989, he led the development of numerous redesigns of the mission, and headed the NASA-honored team that developed the innovative Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist (VEEGA) trajectory that gave the spacecraft the velocity boost it needed to reach Jupiter. Mitchell also received NASA Exceptional Achievement Awards for his work on navigation for the Viking Mission to Mars and the mission design of the Galileo Project.
Mitchell was born in Springville, PA, graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AK, and holds masters' degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics. He lives with his wife in Northridge, CA
Jim Erickson has been deputy project manager of the Galileo mission since January 1998. Prior to that, he managed the Galileo Science and Sequence Office, and also served as deputy manager of the Galileo Engineering Office, and was the Galileo sequence team chief. Since joining JPL in 1974, Erickson's assignments have included development and operations of ground systems for the Viking and Voyager projects, flight and ground telemetry system design for the Galileo Project, and project ground data system engineer on the Mars Observer mission.
Erickson was awarded both the NASA Exceptional Service Award and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Award for his work on the Galileo Project. He received his bachelor of science degree in applied physics from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA, and a master's degree in business administration in project management from West Coast University in Los Angeles He grew up in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, and lives there now with his wife and daughter.
The Cassini and Galileo missions are managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
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