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Donna Shirley
Former Manager, Mars Exploration Program
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

My Career Journey

Math was my worst subject in school. However, I knew I had to learn it to be an engineer, so I sweated it out. I was always kidded in high school for taking mechanical drawing instead of home economics. When I went to college I walked into my advisor's office and he said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I'm enrolling in aeronautical engineering." He responded, "Girls can't be engineers!" I told him I could, and I did!

I received an M.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, a B.S degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, and a B.A in Journalism also from University of Oklahoma.

I came to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1966 to work on a Mars program. I was an aerodynamicist working on how Mars landers would come through the atmosphere and survive without burning up or tumbling out of control. Now, 30 years later, I'm managing the Mars Exploration Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Mars Exploration Program is sending orbiters and landers to Mars beginning in November of this year, with Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder, and will continue to fly two missions in every Mars opportunity (every 26 months) through 2005.

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