Led the Engineering for Mars Rover Missions

Rob Manning, the Chief Engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will appear at the National Space Society’s 2024 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in May.

Manning will be featured in a keynote talk as well as speaking to the youth audience during the four-day event. You can learn more about the ISDC at isdc.nss.org.

“It is such a pleasure to have Rob coming to the conference,” said Rod Pyle, the Editor-in-Chief of Ad Astra magazine, which is published by NSS. “I first met him when I was writing a book about the Curiosity rover and was just astonished by his natural talent and ability to solve complex problems in the simplest way that offers a high probability of success. He is a very gifted speaker—as borne out by his TEDx talks and endless speaking engagements with youth groups and the public—and audiences love him.”

The ISDC will be held on May 23-26, 2024, in Los Angeles, California at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at LAX. Presentations will include talks on space exploration and development, cislunar infrastructure, the influence of science fiction, biosciences, space policy, space settlement, space technology, space law, in situ resource utilization, space-related economics, space agriculture and food production, life support, space solar power, health and diet, newspace and commercialization, international collaboration, planetary defense, planetary protection, and more. Please see the ISDC 2024 website for more details.

“The ISDC is the only major space conference that is intended for everyone, from space professionals to students to the lay public. It is the largest and longest running space conference anywhere,” said Aggie Kobrin, the NSS Event Manager. “We’re thrilled to have Rob speaking to multiple audiences at the ISDC. Our audiences range from seasoned NASA professionals to hundreds of young people, all of whom are deeply interested in space.”

Manning received a BS in electrical engineering from Caltech as well as a BA in math and physics from Whitman College in Washington. Upon graduation he joined JPL to work on the Voyager project which had been recently launched. He quickly advanced into engineering roles on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, Magellan to Venus, Cassini to Saturn, and then moved to JPL’s Mars program. There he served as the Chief Engineer on the Mars Pathfinder mission, Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Mars Curiosity rover (MSL), and oversaw the Perseverance Mars rover engineering team. He was a critical leader in the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) designs for all the Mars rovers, helping to develop the airbag landing system used on Pathfinder and MER and later co-conceiving the Sky Crane landing system used on MSL. As the Chief Engineer at JPL, Manning has overseen their entire mission portfolio since 2018.

Other notables at this year’s ISDC include Star Trek’s William Shatner, former NASA astronauts Susan Kilrain and Jose Hernandez, Dr. Alan Stern of NASA’s New Horizons mission, Dr. Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames, CEO of VAST Max Haot, Jordan Noone of Embedded Ventures, Janet’s Planet host and NSS Governor Janet Ivey, and Melissa Navia, star of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Keck Institute

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