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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers
Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
P2K: When we first met him, in September 2001, it seemed like a comforably long time until the first launch window. We asked him, "Does it feel like a lot of time?"
Pete Theisinger: The challenge of this from the very beginning has been the amount of time left to do this work. The project was actually officially selected by NASA in August of 2001, about 33 months before the launch: that's very tight for a project of this magnitude. As compensation, of course, the... everyone has been extremely supportive in terms of providing staff support, and there's been no issue of budget and flow of funds from Headquarters to help us get everything done. But the challenge for this from the very beginning has been the amount of time required from... the implementation challenge has been the amount of time required to get this done. And it's been nip and tuck all the way.
P2K: How do you define your job... not as in the "organization charts", but in what you have to do each day?
Pete Theisinger: I'm an "enabler." Right now I have, at JPL, over 500 people working on this project. Elsewhere in the supplier network, probably 2... 3,000 people working on this project. My job is to get everything that's possible out of their way so that they can get their work done. To communicate the project status with our sponsor organizations, and to keep the flow of funds going so that if there are budget issues or staffing issues, or resource issues with outside entities in any way, to basically get through those and work those off. I'm responsible for making policy decisions on risk and the kind of the architectural direction that the project goes as a "Project." Not so much the "product." The product is in the hands of the design staff which is working for the Project, for me. But mine is more how the Project, how the implementation does its work, and making policy decisions. And I actually do, probably, less of that than the other. It's very much a... communicate with our outside stakeholders, hmmm, make adjudications across major project elements if that's required, keep a vision for the implementation and communicate that vision to "the troops," do what I can to help the troop morale stay high, those kinds of things.