Rob Manning
Flight System Chief Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Two years later, JPL's Voyager spacecraft began returning fantastic images of Jupiter and her entourage. Even the busy problem-solvers at Caltech peeked up from their work and smiled in delight. It was a heady time to be an engineering student! Later that year JPL graciously offered me a part-time position as a draftsman of the Galileo spacecraft schematics and I found myself inside the very picture I had envied a more than a decade earlier - I had finally graduated!

My first decade at JPL revolved around spacecraft computers and advanced computer architectures. It was fascinating work, but technologically a long way from computers as intelligent as "HAL" from "2001: A Space Odyssey." I went on to be the lead engineer for the computers used on the Cassini spacecraft. Later I found that designing "fault protection" would be a lot of fun and spent two interesting years thinking about how to make Cassini diagnose failures and repair itself during its long lonely voyage to Saturn.

Then Mars Pathfinder came along.

Likes/Dislikes About Career

My friend Richard Cook says the best things about his job are the technical challenges of building a spacecraft and sending it to Mars and the great team of people we have working on Mars Pathfinder. I couldn't agree more. Something like Pathfinder cannot be achieved without teamwork and we have been lucky to have many tireless and selfless people making this work. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will forever be etched into my memories. It will be the fine people that I will remember. The other best part of my job is the learning. For someone as curious about how things work as I am, this is a dream job. I get to learn about Mars geology, mechanical engineering, how parachutes and airbags really work, and much much more. My job is never boring. The one part of my job that I like the least is the time it takes from my wife and my personal life. The other part is always feeling like I need to do more at work. It is a frustrating combination.

Personal Information

I live in Pasadena, Calif. with my wonderful wife, Dominique, and our two goofy pooches, Scooter and Izzy. We spend our free time working on our house, laughing with friends and trying to find time for each other. When we find the time, we both love to ski. I also manage to find some free time to play jazz (bebop) trumpet with local jazz groups.

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