Chief Engineer for Solar System Exploration, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
B. Gentry Lee is chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. In that position, Lee is responsible for the engineering integrity of all the robotic planetary missions managed by JPL for NASA. His major recent work includes the engineering oversight of the fantastically successful and popular Curiosity rover mission to Mars in August 2012, the Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, the Juno mission to Jupiter and the GRAIL missions to the Moon. Previously, Lee provided guidance and oversight for the engineering aspects of the Phoenix and twin rover missions to Mars, as well as NASA’s successful Deep Impact and Stardust missions. Read More >
Ideas for Tomorrow
On the Legacy of Viking
Major biological breakthroughs toward the end of the 20th century basically guaranteed that not just medicine and health but also the fundamentals of birth, death, and all phases of life will be drastically altered by continuing discoveries throughout the 21st century. But the “Biological Revolution” will be accompanied by equally dramatic change in many other areas. In geopolitics, the complete integration of Europe and the rapid emergence of China, India, and Brazil will create new economic and military alliances. The world will eventually agree to reduce the anthropogenic contribution to global warming, but the exact form of that agreement will evolve over time and ultimately have a significant impact on our daily lives. New Earths will be discovered, planets around other stars, where water is liquid and life is possible. At the personal level, the availability of ever more appealing and sophisticated “virtual worlds” will cause a large fraction of the world population to spend less and less time and energy in the “real world.” Read More >
What will happen in the 21st century that will alter our daily lives as much as the cell phone and email? How can individuals, groups, and corporations keep track of the dizzying pace of change in so many dimensions and determine which innovations and discoveries will impact them the most? In “A Vision of the 21st Century,” Gentry Lee will address the coming changes and suggest a blueprint for being successful in the decades ahead. Read Less ^
Global competition and intense marketplace pressure have combined to increase the demand for more and more innovation in new designs. But innovation is always accompanied by risk – risk that the design will not meet its technical objectives and/or will significantly overrun its target cost and schedule. Over several decades the American robotic planetary exploration program has evolved techniques for tracking and assessing the risks associated with engineering innovation. Using the Mars exploration program as the example case study, and highlighting both the successes and failures of the program, this talk will examine the balance between innovation and risk in engineering design.
The twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) landed successfully using airbags on the surface of the red planet in January 2004 after decelerating from over 10,000 mph to 20 mph in just six minutes. Their sister mission, Phoenix, landed gently on three legs in the Martian arctic in May 2008. In the summer of 2005, the Deep Impact robotic spacecraft smashed into the comet Tempel 1 traveling at a closing velocity of over 25,000 mph, while another, parent spacecraft photographed the collision. Space missions like these are enormous engineering challenges and require the use of innovative new technology to be successful. However, using new technology has formidable risks. Balancing the advantages of innovation against its inherent risks is one of the most critical of all design processes. Achieving that balance requires a careful understanding of “what bad things might happen” and a systematic approach to mitigating those risks throughout the life cycle of a product or a project.
"I would like to express our sincere appreciation to you for the superb talk you gave in Newport last Friday morning. Bravo Gentry!! You were the hit of the meeting. Your words were ringing in our ears for the next few days. In particular, I would like to pass along how thrilled our client was. Your passion was (and is) contagious."
"Gentry Lee’s visit was outstanding. He was an excellent choice for our students. We found some common history experiences and I personally enjoyed our time together. He is an exceptional dinner conversationalist! Our best wishes to APB and B. Gentry Lee."