On July 4, 1997 the entire world watched as the Mars Pathfinder and the Sojourner Rover successfully landed on Mars.
Donna Shirley headed the team that designed and built the revolutionary robot, Sojourner Truth, which landed on Mars aboard Pathfinder. Sojourner was the world's first robotic planetary rover and proved that rovers could work on Mars. This led to the spectacularly successful missions of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which are still operating on the red planet. Pathfinder was the United States' first attempt to land on Mars in twenty years.
Sojourner exceeded all expectations sending back spectacular images of the Martian landscape. Millions of people who had tracked the mission's progress on the Internet watched as the first images emerged.
Ms. Shirley was the first team leader of any planetary rover. Ms. Shirley was the first woman to manage flight hardware at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, the first woman to manage a space flight program, the first woman to manage a NASA program and the first woman engineer at JPL. Ms. Shirley was the most senior female technical manager at JPL.
Ms. Shirley recently retired as Director of the Science Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington. Currently, as President of Managing Creativity, she is a well-known manager, educator, speaker, consultant and trainer on the management of creative teams. She retired in August 1998 as Manager of the Mars Exploration Program after a 32-year career at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In 2003 she retired from the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering where she was Assistant Dean and an instructor of Aerospace Mechanical Engineering. Ms. Shirley has an MS in Aerospace Engineering plus over forty years experience in engineering of aerospace and civil systems, including thirty years in management.
She has numerous technical and management awards including four honorary Doctorates. She is the author of Managing Martians, published in 1998 and 1999, and Managing Creativity, available at her web site. She has one daughter in graduate school.
More information on Donna Shirley is available at the following:
NASA Oral History Project: "Herstory" - scroll down the page to find Donna Shirley's "Herstory"