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Photo of Michael Watkins
   Michael Watkins
   Manager, Navigation and Mission Design Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, California
United States Of America
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M.S., Aerospace Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

Background Information
Michael Watkins is the Manager of the Navigation and Mission Design section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), consisting of over 200 engineers and scientists responsible for providing trajectory design, mission planning, mission engineering, and navigation for all NASA deep space missions, and several Earth science missions. Dr. Watkins is also the Project Scientist and Science Data System Manager for the GRACE Mission, providing an interface between spacecraft system engineering and science requirements, and insuring development of all required science analysis algorithms and software. Previously, he managed the Tracking Systems and Applications section at JPL which develops hardware, software, and science applications for advanced tracking systems, including the GPS, VLBI, GRACE K-band ranging, Autonomous Formation Flying, and others. He also supervised a research group investigating geodetic data analysis (primarily GPS) and geophysical interpretation, including precise orbit modelling and determination, site position determination, and kinematic differential positioning. Prior to coming to JPL, Dr. Watkins was a senior research faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research, where he also received his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. He has served on the thesis committees and been directly involved in the supervision of numerous Ph.D. students at the University of Texas and the University of Colorado. Dr. Watkins is a member of several Earth and planetary mission science teams including GRACE, Topex/Poseidon, JASON-1, Piccard, MGS, Moonrise, and others. He serves or served on the board of numerous international scientific and engineering societies, including the American Geophysical Union, American Astronautical Society, International Earth Rotation Service, International GPS Service, and others, and has been an author or co-author of over 200 scientific publications.

Contributions to Mars Exploration

I manage the Navigation and Mission Design Section, which is responsible for providing trajectory design, EDL design, navigation design, mission engineering, and then the navigation, maneuver, Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) trajectory, and mission planning activities during operations for all Mars missions. [more contributions ...]
Personal Reflections

Hard work and passion make everything possible. Do things you are passionate about, because that makes the hard work seem easy and flow naturally from you. Remember that communication between people is one of the secret ingredients that makes these missions work well, and communication skills are often as important as technical ones. [more personal reflections ...]