Eilene Theilig

NASA's Galileo spacecraft mission at Jupiter has a new project manager, Dr. Eilene Theilig of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Theilig, 47, has worked on JPL's Galileo team for 11 years and has served as deputy project manager since April 2000. She has supervised teams of engineers responsible for Galileo's health and for commands sent to the long-lived spacecraft, which was launched in 1989. Theilig received two NASA Exceptional Achievement Awards for that team leadership.

Effective Jan. 29, Theilig assumes the project manager post that had been held since 1998 by Jim Erickson, who has become JPL's mission manager for rovers that NASA plans to send to Mars in 2003.

The Galileo spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since 1995, adding to knowledge about that giant planet and the surrounding Jovian system. It will fly close to Callisto, the outermost of Jupiter's four large moons, on May 25. Two flybys of the intensely volcanic moon Io are planned for the second half of 2001.

"I've always been mindful of the long line of people whose efforts have made Galileo a success. The current team continues the tradition of overcoming technical challenges to achieve first-class science," said Theilig. "We still have exciting new science ahead of us."

A native of Houston, Theilig chose geology as her major at the University of Texas, Austin, partly because of the appeal of outdoor fieldwork. Two of her professors were involved in NASA projects studying the Moon and Mars, so before graduating in 1976, she was already participating in research about channels on Mars. That summer, through a NASA- sponsored internship, she was at JPL assisting the Viking imaging team when the Viking 1 lander set down on Mars. The thrill hooked her.

She directed herself toward a career in solar system exploration by earning a Ph.D. in geology with a concentration in planetary studies from Arizona State University, Tempe, in 1986. While there, she published research about the geological history of Mars. She returned to JPL in 1987 as a National Research Council associate, investigating lava flows on Earth to aid interpretation of the NASA Magellan spacecraft's radar imaging of lava flows on Venus.

Seeking more active participation in mission operations, Theilig joined the Galileo project seven months before the spacecraft was launched on Oct. 18, 1989, aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Since that time, she has been involved in the mission's scientifically rich encounters from early planning stages through sending commands to the spacecraft.

Theilig lives in Monrovia, Calif. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an avid hiker and an active member of her church.

Through mission extensions, Galileo has already served more than twice as long in orbit as its original two-year mission, and it has withstood more than three times the amount of radiation, from time spent in Jupiter's radiation belts, as it was designed for. More information is available online at http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov .

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Galileo for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

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