Press Release

NASA JPL Internal Memo: Creating the Future of Planetary Science (with JPL Planetary Science Directorate leadership assignments)

By SpaceRef Editor
March 30, 2020
Filed under ,

March 30, 2020

TO: 4X personnel

FROM: Bobby Braun

SUBJECT: Creating the Future of Planetary Science

The United States is a nation of explorers and, in these unprecedented times, our work has more meaning than ever. Our quest to understand the formation and evolution of the solar system and its potential to support life beyond Earth is accelerating. With a suite of research, technology and flight projects underway and a Decadal Survey on the horizon, the coming decade will bring grand scientific discoveries and exciting engineering challenges for JPL, NASA and the nation’s science community.

Since the fall, we have been assessing options to best position the Lab to execute its future in planetary science. Effective today, the Mars Exploration Directorate and the Solar System Exploration Directorate are integrating to form the new Planetary Science Directorate (4X). This organizational change is designed to improve alignment and communications with NASA HQ and our partner organizations, improve the integration & communication of our priorities and challenges across the Lab, and strengthen our collaboration and interactions with the planetary science community. We will team with other organizations across the Lab in development of a strong, diverse and inclusive personnel pipeline for the future roles in the Directorate and across the Lab. We will learn from each other and be an even greater force for discovery going forward.

Planetary science has evolved into a broad and growing enterprise – with addition of new scientific disciplines and questions, an increasing breadth of organizations and nations engaged, and the expanding engineering complexity of missions undertaken. The newly-formed JPL Planetary Science Directorate (PSD) will play to our strengths – formulating, developing and operating planetary science missions and instruments that only JPL can. With a science-first mentality, we will work to deliver and operate each planetary science project within the required technical, cost and schedule constraints.

Our strategy will include increasing the pace of technology infusion, pioneering the use of new business practices, creating strategic partnerships for the Lab through our strength in planetary sciences, and expanding the engagement of the nation’s planetary science community in JPL activities. This new organization comes at a critical time as the nature of NASA’s planetary science efforts continues to expand and the next decade’s blueprint has yet to be written.

The attached slides describe our initial organization which is designed to provide visibility, leadership and coordination across the technology, formulation, development and operations aspects of our Directorate, ensure continuity of the NASA HQ Mars Exploration Program (MEP) functions at JPL, establish a new Mars Sample Return (MSR) Campaign Program, and provide strong oversight of Mars 2020/Perseverance, Psyche, RIME, Clipper, MSR and JPL’s other planetary science projects.

In the coming months, there will be ample opportunity to delve into the specifics of this organization and its strategy forward. I welcome your input and feedback and anticipate additional changes over time. At this time, I am pleased to announce the following JPL Planetary Science Directorate leadership assignments:

• Keyur Patel will serve as Deputy Director for Solar System Implementation. In this role, Keyur will primarily focus on the implementation and operation of many of our most significant flight projects and instruments.

• Fuk Li will serve as Deputy Director for Mars 2020, Assistant Director for the Mars Sample Return Campaign (MSR Campaign Manager) and Manager of the Mars Exploration Program Office. The MEP Manager and MSR Campaign Manager will continue to have direct reporting lines to the respective NASA HQ Program Directors.

• Rich Zurek will continue to serve as MEP Chief Scientist.

• Phil Larson has joined JPL as the PSD Strategic Planner.

• Katey Velazquez will serve as the PSD Staff Assistant.

• Christophe Sotin will serve as PSD Chief Scientist, providing science strategy and strategic guidance across the Directorate and working to expand the engagement of the planetary science community across PSD activities. In addition to Michael Mischna, a second Deputy Chief Scientist will be selected in the near future. These will be rotating or term appointments.

• Satish Khanna will serve as PSD Chief Technologist, providing strategic technology guidance for the Directorate and managing the Planetary Science Technology Program Office. A PSD Assistant Chief Technologist will be selected in the near future. These will be rotating or term appointments.

• Gentry Lee and Howard Eisen will serve as the PSD Chief Engineers, providing systematic technical insight across Directorate, engaging in Directorate’s most significant technical challenges, and working to ensure mission success. A PSD Deputy Chief Engineer will be selected in the near future.

• Janet Shen will serve as the PSD Business Operations Manager.

• Donna Bonorris will serve as the PSD Business Administration Manager.

• Tony Freeman will serve as Manager of the Planetary Science Formulation Program Office, with Greg Garner as Deputy Manager. This office will formulate planetary science mission and instrument concepts and enable their transition into implementation.

• Effective today, a PSD Multi-Mission Extended Operations Office has also been created to nimbly manage the extended operations of our critical NASA planetary science assets. The Manager of this office will be selected following position posting in the near future.

A complete list of 4X personnel assignments and additional organizational descriptions are provided in the attached slides. Workday and JPLRules! updates are being made this week.

Thank you for your dedication to solving the challenges ahead. I look forward to working with you as we stand up this new organization and build a vibrant planetary science future, together. All the best,



SpaceRef staff editor.