James Graf of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been named manager of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.
As project manager, Graf will oversee all aspects of the development and operations of the mission, proposed for launch in August 2005. The mission will conduct remote sensing of the planet's surface to identify evidence of past or present water and will help identify safe and scientifically exciting landing sites for future robotic and perhaps someday human missions. The Reconnaissance Orbiter will also establish a telecommunications link for future missions.
"The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is a giant step forward in our capability to examine Mars. It will enable scientists to pull back the curtain on this very confusing and mysterious planet and study the surface in unprecedented detail," Graf said. "The imager on board the spacecraft should be able to resolve ground features to a resolution considerably higher than anything we've done before. For instance, we should be able to identify rocks down to two-thirds of a meter in diameter [about two feet]."
Graf previously managed the Quick Scatterometer mission (QuikSCAT) and the development of its SeaWinds radar instrument. Graf has been with JPL for 25 years. He has a bachelor's degree in science and engineering from Princeton University, New Jersey and a master's in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University.
Graf, his wife Kris, and their two children live in La Cañada, Calif.
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.