Jennifer Harris Trosper
On January 4, 2004, NASA’s Spirit Rover touched down on Mars to start it’s five year exploration of the planet. Originally intended to last only 90 Martian days, the rover continued operations until communications were lost in 2010. The extraordinary life span of the rover was due to the hard work and ingenuity of the many scientists, engineers, and designers who worked on the project.
Today I’d like you to meet one of those scientists, NASA Deputy Project Manager Jennifer Harris Trosper. Trosper studied aerospace engineering at MIT and USC. She was inspired to work in the space industry by her dad, who told her stories of his career in the 50’s building and testing rockets. While at school, Trosper was also an athlete, competing with MIT’s volleyball team and was inducted into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1989.
When Trosper started at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory she was part of the Cassini spacecraft mission. Her first career connection with Mars was when she was the attitude and information management lead and flight director for the Mars Pathfinder mission. She then served as the lead systems engineer for the Mars Rovers Project and was a mission manager for the Spirit Rover when it landed in 2004.
As a systems engineer, Trosper must use her communication skills as well as her technical expertise to help bring together the group of engineers and technicians that will create a project as ambitious as a Mars rover. She designed tests needed to verify that when the Spirit rover touched down, it could begin it’s study of the planet and be able to transmit its findings back to the scientists on Earth. In an interview with MIT’s Alumni Association, Trosper said that the crew knew that the Spirit mission would “either redeem or destroy the Mars program at JPL.” Spirit went above and beyond it’s mission, lasting more than 15 times longer than planned and helping lead to renewed interest in Mars exploration.
Written by Mary Ratliff