Mr Wayne Lee


Wayne Lee has been serving as the Chief Engineer for the Mars Exploration Rovers mission's Entry, Descent and Landing system, EDL, which comprises the parachute, rockets, and airbags that are designed to bring the spacecraft from a speed of 12,000 miles per hour as it reaches Mars, to a complete stop on the surface - all within 6 minutes. His work on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission was completed in late 2003 when he transitioned to a line management position responsible for staffing JPL's future missions to Mars.

In a career that has combined engineering, mathematics and management, Wayne was previously a mission planner at NASA's JPL, where he designed trajectories: he worked on both the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder missions. Previously he was an Instructor at the Kennedy Space Center, and at the University of California.

During the Mars Pathfinder mission he was the mission planner for Mars operations at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. During the mission, he worked with all the elements of the flight team to coordinate trajectories, science plans and spacecraft operations into the overall mission itinerary.

Originally from San Diego, California he has degrees from Berkeley in electrical engineering and from the University of Texas in astronautics. He has also published a book on spaceflight mechanics for the layperson.


Lecture 11: Six Minutes of Terror: Stories from the landing rovers on Marsby Mr Wayne Lee

Confidence was not high. It was just after New Year’s Day 2004 and 800 million dollars of hardware in the form of two rovers were hurtling toward Mars at a speed 25 times faster than a speeding bullet. Over the Christmas holiday, a dust storm had engulfed the planet, plunging additional chaos into a Martian atmosphere windy under normal circumstances. Then, the electronic event sequencer controlling the landing was found to have a potentially critical flaw. With the tragic loss of seven astronauts aboard space shuttle Columbia earlier less than a year earlier, and a crash on the previous Mars landing attempt, NASA’s once proud reputation was on the line. This talk will discuss how a team of engineers, responsible for the landing system of the rover’s Sprit and Opportunity, overcame multitudes of test failures over four years to assemble a system of heatshields, parachutes, retrorockets, and airbags to survive the six terrifying minutes of decelerating two rovers from fantastic speeds to a safe landing.

Lecture 12: As We Shall Return: NASA’s new initiative to land astronauts on the Moonby Mr Wayne Lee

“As we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.” Back in 1972, nobody would have imagined that over 35 years would pass with that message from Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan still standing as the last words transmitted from the surface of the Moon. Today, NASA is working to fulfill its pledge to return astronauts to the Moon as a follow-on to perhaps the great achievement in aviation and exploration history. If all goes well, astronauts will again be exploring the Moon by 2020. This time, plans call for four crew members to explore for up to seven days at a time with eventual goals of possibly building a permanently occupied lunar base. Doubling both the crew and stay time from the Apollo flights will take a booster larger than the original Saturn 5 Moon rocket and a lunar lander taller than a two-story house. This talk will describe NASA’s current lunar exploration plans as well as the gigantic machines currently under design to make it possible.