Richard Volpe

Richard Volpe, former manager of robotic autonomy architecture at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has been named manager of JPL's Mars Regional Mobility and Subsurface Access Technology office.

In this new role, Volpe will oversee and coordinate the technology and development for next-generation Mars surface and subsurface exploration. This will include overseeing demonstrations of future mission concepts.

"The intent for these missions is to increase the level of autonomy for the systems, particularly rovers," said Volpe. The Mars Exploration Rovers in 2003 will demonstrate surface mobility, he said. "We hope to use new capabilities like stereo-vision, obstacle avoidance and voyaging away from the landing site."

However, Volpe says that the objective is to create rovers that will not need to stop and communicate with operators whenever they encounter problems. "If a rover has problems, it needs to phone home. We want to make it smarter. We want to minimize the detailed level of operator interaction and increase system performance and science data return." With this in mind, Volpe said, he hopes to create a rover that could travel longer distances and carry out operations for several days without communicating with Earth.

Volpe has been with JPL for 10 years. He also worked on the Long Range Science Rover Desert Field tests with the rover Rocky 7, which helped to make the proposed 2003 rover mission a possibility. Volpe received his bachelor's degree in physics from Loyola College in Baltimore, Md., and his master's and doctorate in applied physics from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pa. Volpe is a resident of Pasadena.

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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