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(FREE and open to the public)
Friday June 13th 2003 7:30pm

Featured Speaker

Dr Randii R. Wessen
Navigator Program Engineer, CALTECH JPL.

The Future of U.S. Planetary Exploration

photo from JPL Image Library

As the millennium closed, so did the era of large-scale planetary spacecraft. Future planetary spacecraft will increase their capability, as compared to their predecessors, while reducing in size and consuming less power. These future spacecraft will be the landers and sample return missions of tomorrow.

Lander and sample return missions require innovative mission concepts, new operation approaches, as well as technologies that have yet to be developed. In addition, these missions will be more numerous then in the past. Rather than one mission every decade, every decade will have numerous missions.

To organize this effort, the United States robotic planetary exploration program has been divided into five areas:

  1. Earth Exploration
  2. Mars Exploration
  3. Outer Planet Exploration
  4. Asteroid & Comet Exploration
  5. Universe

This presentation will describe each of these areas, the major missions currently in operations and those being planned. It will also have a special emphasis on extra-solar planet searches and the search for life.

original photo by Sam Mircovich/Rueters


Randii R. Wessen

Dr. Wessen has been an employee of the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for nineteen years. He is currently the Navigator Program Engineer. Previously, Dr. Wessen was the Telecommunications and Mission Systems Manager for the Mars Program, the Supervisor for the Science System Engineering Group, Manager of the Cassini Science Planning & Operations Element, the Galileo Deputy Sequence Team Chief, and the Voyager Science Sequence Coordinator for the Uranus and Neptune encounters.

Dr. Wessen received his Bachelors of Science in both Physics and Astronomy from Stony Brook University, a Masters of Science in Astronautics from the University of Southern California, and a Doctorate in Operations Research from the University of Glamorgan, Wales, England. He co-authored the book "Neptune: the Planet, Rings and Satellites" and was the recipient of NASA's Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to the Voyager 2 Neptune Encounter. He also has six NASA Group Achievement Awards and is a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society.


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