The individual works of Paul Backes (distributed and remote operations), Eric T. Baumgartner (manipulator control) and Larry Matthies (navigation systems) have advanced robotic technology, particularly rover operations, and made possible the scientific exploration of Mars. The three played individual roles in the overall integration of robotic technology used in space flight systems, particularly the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The rovers are designed to carryout complex tasks safely, while exhibiting human-like qualities such as awareness, cognition and judgment. The contributions of Backes, Baumgartner and Matthies have broad significance to the robotics field in both terrestrial and space applications and have been widely cited in robotics literature.
Dr. Backes, an IEEE member, is the technical group supervisor of the Mobility and Manipulation group in the Mobility and Robotic Systems section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. He conceived and led the development of an interface system, referred to as SAP (Science Activity Planner) that was used as the primary science planning tool in the 2003 MER mission, as well as providing a way for scientists and engineers to collaborate remotely. Dr. Backes holds seven patents, has written 3 book chapters, 15 journal articles and over 60 conference papers; and is a recipient of numerous awards presented by NASA. He holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and a master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.