Mars Pathfinder

James F. Clawson, manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Reliability Office, has received NASA's 1997 "Best of the Best" Quality Assurance Special Achievement Recognition (QASAR) award for his leadership in the implementation of innovative, low-cost engineering approaches for the Mars Pathfinder mission.

Clawson, who led the project effort to structure and implement the Mars Pathfinder Mission Assurance Program, was responsible for risk management and streamlined engineering procedures and teaming to assure the success of the nation's first landing on Mars in more than 20 years.

"Jim personally led the project effort to establish a low- cost, rapid development concept for Mars Pathfinder and left a faster, better, cheaper legacy for future projects," said JPL Director Dr. Edward Stone. "The Pathfinder mission assurance innovations saved the project approximately $8 million compared to the cost of using more conventional approaches. This savings allowed the project to achieve its challenging mission objective within a very constraining cost cap."

The QASAR award recognizes individuals within NASA or other government agencies and prime contractors and subcontractors for significant quality improvements to products or services for NASA. NASA Headquarters and all NASA centers have local QASAR award programs. Annually the "Best of the Best" in each award category is chosen for agencywide recognition.

During spacecraft development, Clawson was the mission assurance manager, overseeing key elements such as electronic parts engineering, reliability engineering, environmental requirements, hardware and software quality assurance and system safety. His major challenge was to develop a low- cost mission assurance approach with acceptable risks. Clawson is also chairman of JPL's Lessons Learned Committee, which addresses issues in interplanetary space exploration.

Clawson joined JPL in 1985, after spending 18 years at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, as a thermal control team leader for the space shuttle orbiter program and working on thermal analysis of the Apollo Lunar Program. He supported the Apollo 11 mission, watching actual data from the first piloted lunar landing. Prior to his position as Mars Pathfinder mission assurance manager, Clawson was the technical group supervisor of the Thermal Environments Group at JPL, which defined environmental and test levels for interplanetary missions.

During his early career, from 1958 to 1967, Clawson was with the Boeing Company, Seattle, working on such projects as the X-20 "Dyna-Soar" spacecraft, a predecessor of the space shuttle; the Short Range Attack Missile project; and the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile program. He also worked extensively in thermal and structural laboratory testing.

Clawson holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle, having graduated in 1961 magna cum laude, and went on to do graduate work there in heat transfer and thermodynamics. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society.

Clawson and his wife, Mary, live in Altadena, CA.


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