Gentry Lee


Gentry Lee
Associated organizations
Fields of study
IEEE Simon Ramo Medal, Harold Masursky Award, Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement


Considered a hero of deep-space exploration, Gentry Lee has set the standard for systems engineering of complex robotic planetary missions. From the 1970s Viking landers to today’s Mars rovers, Mr. Lee has provided guidance, technical counsel, and made the hard decisions to identify, characterize, and reduce the risks inherent in deep-space missions. The critical events in these missions, such as orbit insertion burn, autonomous soft landing, Earth atmospheric entry, and autonomous targeting for impact, must execute precisely and without error for the mission to meet its objectives. Mr. Lee has been at the center of the engineering decision-making process for proper execution of these events. Mr. Lee was chief engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter from 1977 to 1988. After working on the historic Viking project from 1968 to 1975, he was the director of science analysis and mission planning during the Viking operations. His leadership of the Genesis (2004) and Stardust (2005) missions’ Earth-entry risk reduction resulted in the successful return of solar wind molecules (Genesis) and comet particles (Stardust) for scientific study. His recent work includes the supervision of the successful Curiosity rover mission to Mars, the Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and the GRAIL mission to the Moon.

A Jet Propulsion Laboratory Fellow, Gentry Lee’s honors include the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal (2013), the Harold Masursky Award from the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences (2006), the Distinguished Service Medal (NASA’s highest award) (2005), and the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1976). He is the chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA.