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  • Mission-Critical Agility
  • Rocket Science and the Republic
  • Space Invaders
  • Exploring the Unknown in the Simplest Way that Could Possibly Work


Technology | Future | Leadership


Jeff Norris, Ph.D., manages the Planning and Execution Systems Section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. His section is responsible for the software and mission control personnel that command many of NASA's robotic spacecraft including the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, the Cassini Saturn Orbiter, and many other missions to destinations throughout the solar system. Over the past decade, He has also led numerous research projects that have extended the state of the art in robot control, human-computer interaction, and data visualization.

Five years ago, Dr. Norris founded the JPL OPS Lab, an advanced agile development facility for the design, development, and deployment of mission-critical software and human-robot interaction technologies. In the OPS Lab, he pioneered an innovative approach to software development within NASA that emphasizes teamwork and innovation. This approach has earned the team numerous awards and a consistent record of success across a broad variety of projects. He has also been a driving force behind the use of open source software within NASA's missions.

In addition to leading the development of one of the key pieces of operations software for the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Dr. Norris helped operate both rovers as a Tactical Activity Planner during the prime mission. In this role, he integrated the daily plan of action for the rover from the mission engineering and science teams and ensured that mission objectives were being met within the available resources of the spacecraft. His efforts on the mission earned him a NASA Honor award "for Outstanding Contribution to the Success of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission."

In 2009, Dr. Norris received the Lew Allen Award for Excellence, JPL's highest honor for an innovator in the early years of his/her career, "for exemplary vision, innovation and leadership in fundamentally advancing the capabilities for scientific involvement in planning operations on NASA's missions." He also led the team that was co-winner of the 2004 NASA Software of the Year Award, NASA's highest software award, and has received many other accolades for excellence in research, leadership, and public outreach.

Before joining NASA, Dr. Norris researched computer vision technologies at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and next-generation railroad control interfaces at the MIT Media Laboratory. He received Bachelor's and Masters degrees in Computer Science from MIT and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California.

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