Richard ("Spe") Spehalski, program manager of NASA's Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn, has announced his retirement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, effective June 5. Robert T. Mitchell, currently the manager of the Galileo Europa Mission, been named new manager of the Cassini program. JPL manages the Cassini program for NASA.
Spehalski this week was awarded NASA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, presented in Pasadena by Dr. Wesley Huntress, NASA's associate administrator for space science. A nearly four-decade veteran of JPL, Spehalski was honored for his management of two of NASA's most historic flagship science missions -- Cassini, launched in October 1997, and the Galileo Mission to Jupiter launched in October 1989. He served as Galileo Project manager from 1988 to 1990, and has managed Cassini since 1992. He assumed responsibility for the entire international Cassini development program when NASA Headquarters gave formal program management oversight of the mission to JPL in 1993.
Spehalski's other responsibilities at JPL have included management of NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) pre-project from January 1990 until January 1992. He held key engineering and management positions on Galileo and on the highly successful Voyager missions to the outer planets launched in 1977. He served on numerous other planetary exploration missions at JPL dating back to the Mariner mission to Venus in 1962. Spehalski joined JPL in 1959 as a mechanical engineer in the Lab's Mechanical Systems Engineering and Research Division.
Spehalski has received many other awards including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to the Voyager Project, the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership for the Galileo Project, and two Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine Laurel Awards for his work on the Galileo Project and Cassini Program.
Born in DuBois, Penn., Spehalski earned a bachelor's of mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University in 1958. He and his wife, Nancy, plan to leave their home in Altadena, Calif., to travel across the country in the months following his retirement. The Spehalskis have three sons, Steve, Mark and James, all of whom are professional engineers, and three grandchildren.
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