Fall 2011:

Sept. 9, '11 "The Future of US Robotic Planetary Exploration", Dr. Randii Wessen, Deputy Manager Project Formulation Office, California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory


As the millennium closed, so did the era of large planetary spacecraft that were launched once per decade. Future robotic spacecraft will have a wide range of capabilities, diverse mission objectives, and be launched almost one per year. Among the many types of missions, some will be the landers and sample return missions of tomorrow. To meet these bold endeavors, these ambassadors from Earth will require advanced mission concepts, new operational approaches, as well as technologies that have yet to be developed.To organize this effort, the United States robotic planetary exploration program has been divided into the following themes: Earth, Mars, Solar System and 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 the quest for extra-solar planets and the search for life in the cosmos.

Dr. Randii Wessen
Deputy Manager Project Formulation Office
California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. Wessen has been an employee of the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for twenty-six years. He is currently the Deputy Manager of the Project Formulation Office. Prior to this, Dr. Wessen was the Navigator Program System Engineer. This program's goal is the detection of Earth-like planets around other stars, if they exist. He also was the Telecommunications & 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 & Neptune encounters.

Dr. Wessen received his Bachelors of Science in both Physics & 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, United Kingdom. He co-authored the books "Neptune: the Planet, Rings and Satellites" & "Planetary Ring Systems." He was the recipient of NASA's Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to the Voyager 2 Neptune Encounter and has nine NASA Group Achievement Awards. Dr. Wessen is also a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society.