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Donna Shirley    

Management Consultant & Author; Former Manager of the Mars Exploration Program

With more than forty years of experience in the engineering of aerospace and civil systems; instruction at the University of Oklahoma as an assistant dean; and management over the Mars Exploration Program, Donna Shirley retired in 2003 to develop her company, Managing Creativity. As the president of Managing Creativity, Donna offers her advice through speaking, consulting, and training on the management of creative teams.

In 1998, Shirley retired as the manager of the Mars Exploration Program after a 32-year career with NASA in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She was the first woman to manage flight hardware at the JPL in Pasadena, California; the first woman to manage a spaceflight program; the first woman to manage a NASA program; and the first woman engineer at the JPL.

On July 4, 1997, the entire world watched as the Mars Pathfinder and the Sojourner Rover successfully landed on Mars. Donna led the Sojourner Truth team, the first team of any planetary rover. This robotics team developed a revolutionary robot that landed on Mars aboard the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder Mission was the United States’ first attempt at landing on Mars in 20 years, and Sojourner was the world’s first robotic planetary rover, proving rovers could work on Mars.

After the discovery that rovers could work on Mars, the next rover missions from Spirit and Opportunity are still operating on the red planet.

Sojourner exceeded all expectations, as it sent spectacular images of the Martian landscape back to earth. Millions of people tracking mission progress watched over the Internet as the first images emerged.

In 1997, was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame. Shirley went on to win the Washington Award in 2000, which is an award for American engineers and was formally inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. She is also the recipient of four honorary doctorates.

Shirley is the author of "Managing Martians," published in 1998 and 1999, and "Managing Creativity: A Practical Guide to Inventing, Developing, and Producing Innovative Products."



Donna Shirley makes Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame her New Home
As program manager for the Mars Exploration Program for NASA, Donna was the original leader of the team that built the highly acclaimed Mars Pathfinder rover, landing a vehicle and several instruments on the surface of the Red Planet in 1997. For that historic mission, Donna also helped oversee the creation of a Website that came to represent a defining moment for the Internet, the first virtual Web connection between the public at large in cyberspace and information being gathered and transmitted from the farthest reaches of outer space.
Mars Exploration Program Manager Donna Shirley to Retire
Donna Shirley, manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and original leader of the team that built the highly acclaimed Mars Pathfinder rover, will retire August 21.

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