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December 22, 2006

NASA Names New Manager For Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Image on the left: Jim Erickson. This image is a head-shot of a white man in his late forties or early fifties.  He has brown eyes and grey hair, and he rests his head on his hand as he warmly smiles directly at the camera. He wears a white polo-style shirt. Image on the right: Jim Graf. This image shows Jim Graf smiling directly at the camera. He has thick brown hair and a brown beard.  He has a broad smile and looks to be almost laughing.  He wears a white dress shirt and a silver and black tie that is in the pattern of bricks.
Jim Erickson (Full Res JPG, 1.5 MB)

Jim Graf (Full Res JPG, 1.6 MB)
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has a new project manager.

Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., had been deputy project manager for the orbiter since early 2006.

JPL's Jim Graf, who led the Mars robotic mission from development through flight to the red planet, is moving on to new challenges. He has joined JPL's Earth Science and Technology Directorate as deputy director.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began orbiting Mars in March and started the primary science phase of its mission in November.

"Mars rivets one's attention," Graf said. "It is so interesting that every scrap of data both answers existing questions and opens up new ones. The engineers and scientists supporting Mars missions are first rate, and it is hard to say goodbye to them."

In his new position, Graf will manage current missions and develop future ones to study Earth's atmosphere, surface and interior. "I am excited about moving to Earth science, where I can contribute directly to our understanding of our own planet," Graf said.

Graf has worked on space-related projects for more than 30 years, including development of ion-thruster technology, production of instruments for spacecraft, and management of NASA's Quick Scatterometer. He received NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal for his work. He earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., and a master's degree from Colorado State University, Fort Collins. Graf is a resident of La Caņada, Calif.

Erickson was project manager for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity before switching to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project. "I look forward to working with a great team on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, both here at JPL and at Lockheed Martin," Erickson said.

He was previously project manager for NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter. During more than 30 years at JPL, he has also worked on the Viking missions to Mars, the Voyager missions to outer planets, and the Mars Observer mission. He earned a bachelor's degree in applied physics from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., and a master's in business administration and project management from West Coast University, Los Angeles. He lives in Glendale, Calif.

The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft.

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

NEWS RELEASE: 2006-151

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