Donna Shirley, an aerospace engineer who is developing the first rover to explore the surface of Mars, has been named program manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's newly formed Office of Mars Exploration.
Shirley's appointment, announced by JPL Director Dr. Edward C. Stone, became effective Aug. 1. Shirley will continue at the same time to oversee the development of the Pathfinder Microrover Flight Experiment, a small rover that will fly aboard the Mars Pathfinder lander to the red planet in November 1996.
With more than 30 years of experience in aerospace and civil engineering, Shirley first joined JPL in 1966 as an aerodynamicist in the former Engineering Mechanics Division. Over the years, she held progressively more responsible positions in systems analysis for flight projects, terrestrial applications of space technology and for the development of automation, robotics and mobile surface vehicles.
Among her accomplishments, Shirley served as leader of a 1979 advanced study to design an orbiter and probe to explore Saturn and its moon Titan. The study evolved into the Cassini mission, now scheduled for launch in 1997.
She led JPL's early work on the space station in the 1980s and developed concepts for automated mobile vehicles to be used on planetary surfaces, with an emphasis on the moon and Mars.
The office she will now manage -- JPL's Office of Mars Exploration -- was established in July in response to NASA's initiative to scale back the cost and development time of space flight missions and to begin a sustained program of Mars exploration over the next decade.
The office will manage both the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions, as well as all planned future U.S. and international missions to Mars, following a "concept-to-completion" philosophy in which missions are carried out from inception to flight under the same program management.
Originally from Wynnewood, Okla., Shirley received a bachelor of arts degree in professional writing in 1963 from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, and in 1965, was awarded that university's bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering. She earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering in 1968 from the University of Southern California and later completed NASA's senior executive certificate program.
Shirely is a recipient of several NASA Group Achievement awards, including those for her work on the 1973 Mariner mission to Venus and Mercury and for her participation on the 1985 Space Station Task Force.
A past president of the California Institute of Technology's Management Association, Shirley resides in La Canada Flintridge with her daughter Laura.
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