Director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Charles Elachi talks about outer space & the recent curiosity Mars landing.
Dr. Charles Elachi, Director, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, California Institute of Technology
Interviewed by: Alexis Madrigal, Senior Editor, The Atlantic
Dr. Charles Elachi
Charles Elachi is the director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech. He leads JPL's efforts to build robots that explore space -- including the surprisingly long-lived Mars Rovers. In the wake of the Rovers' success (and even fame), it's worth remembering that they grew out of some troubled earlier attempts to reach Mars. Elachi's careful management of the Rover program, wrote the US News and World Report, was a key piece of its success. And Elachi gives equal credit to some extraordinary luck.
As JPL's director for space and Earth science programs from 1982 to 2000, and then its head since then, he's led the development of many new instruments and programs for observing Earth and exploring the planets. It's in part thanks to him that, as of May 2008, we have 17 different robots exploring space. His own academic specialty is active microwave remote sensing and electromagnetic theory.
Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.
Charles Elachi, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), discusses the unorthodox design of the sky crane, touching on the importance of sending robots to space in lieu of astronauts. "The solar system is not a very friendly place," he says.