It’s not easy sending a one-ton spacecraft to a planet tens of millions of miles away, lowering it to the surface by cables and setting it free to roam about. The folks responsible for pulling off a feat like that? Peter Theisinger and Richard Cook.
Pete and Richard, who have traded project-manager duties back and forth throughout the program, are the latest heirs of NASA’s long history of building brilliant unmanned spacecraft and dispatching them around the cosmos. I first got to know Pete back in the 1970s, when he worked on my Voyager spacecraft team. I could tell even then that he was energetic, inquisitive and, of course, smart. When his turn came to run his own operation, he not only did a stellar job but found equally talented personnel like Richard, who was part of the Pathfinder mission team that landed the first rover on Mars in 1997.
Robot probes provide us a telepresence in places we can’t yet go. When Curiosity touched down on Mars last summer, it showed us a desert-like scene that is at once faintly familiar and utterly new. We can’t thank Pete, Richard and their team enough for getting it there safely, and we should continue to thank them for the wisdom and thrills the rover will bring us as it explores its new home.
Stone is the chief project scientist for the Voyager missions
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