NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission

Rob Manning, chief engineer of NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission, has been named chief engineer of the agency's long-term program of robotic exploration of Mars, managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.

Manning's newly created position is effective immediately and involves coordinating the engineering efforts of all robotic spacecraft and instruments currently in development or planned for future missions to Mars. In this capacity, Manning will serve on the JPL engineering council, lead study teams, sit on review boards and solve engineering problems that cut across all Mars projects.

"We are delighted to have someone of Rob's caliber in this newly created position," said Donna Shirley, manager of the Mars Exploration Program Office at JPL, which oversees the Mars Surveyor Program for NASA. "By establishing a chief engineer at the program level, Rob will coordinate the technical aspects of all of the Mars missions, allowing us to save money and avoid duplication of effort."

Manning has served as flight system chief engineer on the Mars Pathfinder mission since 1993, overseeing all technical aspects of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, using a unique engineering method of parachuting through the Martian atmosphere and coming to a safe halt on the Martian surface with the aid of giant airbags and small retro-rockets. In addition to managing the technical aspects of this novel entry and landing approach, Manning led the team which designed, developed, tested and operated the spacecraft's entry, descent and landing system.

With an expertise in spacecraft computing and fault-tolerant computer systems, Manning has held key positions in the development of a variety of interplanetary spacecraft, including the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Magellan mission to Venus. More recently, he served as the cognizant engineer for all onboard computers on the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft.

Manning graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980 from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, with a combined bachelor of science degree in mathematics and physics. After joining JPL in 1981, he completed a second bachelor's degree in engineering and applied science in 1982 at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Currently he is pursuing graduate work in computer engineering and control systems at the University of Southern California.

He and his wife, Dominique, make their home in Pasadena, CA, along with their young daughter, Caline.

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