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James Webb Telescope
Mars Communications

Third IEEE International Conference on
Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology

Keynote Presentation (Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 8:30 am - 9:15 am)

Robert ManningRobert Manning
Chief Engineer, Mars Science Laboratory Mission, NASA JPL, USA

"Stealing Success"


Building complex Mars robotic systems that work the first time requires more than intelligence, hard work and a little luck. Sometimes it takes being wrong first. I will tell some tales of how our engineering missteps have helped us to (occasionally) win our ultimate prize: a deeper understanding of Mars and our solar system.


Rob Manning is currently the Chief Engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, a new, rather large rover named “Curiosity” set to land on Mars in 2010.

Prior to MSL, Rob was the Mars Program Chief Engineer at JPL where he worked to ensure that the Mars missions at Mars cooperated.  Prior to that, he helped conceive the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) missions where he also led the Systems Engineering team as well as the Entry Descent and Landing teams for the MER project that landed twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on the surface of Mars in early 2004.

Before MER, Rob was the Chief Engineer for the Mars Pathfinder mission that bounced Pathfinder and Sojourner onto the surface of Mars in 1997 where he also led its entry, descent and landing team. Rob has been working at JPL since 1980.

As a result of his good fortunes at JPL, Rob has received two NASA medals and is in the Aviation Week Magazine Space Laureate Hall of Fame in the Smithsonian Air and Space>Museum. In 2004, “SpaceNews” magazine named Rob as one of 100 people who made a difference in civil, commercial and military space since 1989.

Rob is a graduate of Caltech and Whitman College where he studied math, physics, computer science, and control systems.  He makes his home in Pasadena with his wife Dominique and their daughter, Caline.

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