Case Studies in Space Robotics Development

A brief review of three of the fundamental developments in space robotics technology. The conceptualization of each will be discussed, as well as an analysis of their impact and effects upon space exploration capabilities.


Mr. Lavery is responsible for executive oversight of the design and development of the next generation of Mars exploration spacecraft, and the advanced technologies to enable them. He is currently responsible for the two Mars Exploration Rover missions, and the joint European-U.S. Mars Express mission, all of which have been operating on Mars since early 2004. In addition, he is leading the creation of the 2016 Mars Rover mission, and the Mars Advanced Technology Program that is creating new approaches to remote exploration by robotic systems.

Prior to these assignments, Mr. Lavery directed the NASA Telrobotics Technology Development Program for 12 years. In this position, Mr. Lavery was responsible for the content and direction of the NASA robotics and planetary exploration research efforts, establishing national space robotics technology policy and procedures, developing inter- and intra-agency efforts in space robotics and solar system exploration technology, and integrating and directing national efforts for the development of the space robotics industry.

While at NASA, Mr. Lavery has been a participant in the field party for the Dante I and Dante II projects, which deployed robotic rovers inside active volcanoes in the Antarctic and Alaska during 1992 and 1994. He was the program manager for the AERcam/Sprint project, which flew a self-contained, free-flying robotic camera platform on the STS-86 Space Shuttle mission in 1996. He was the program manager for the Sojourner planetary rover, which landed Mars on July 4, 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder mission.

He also founded and directs the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, including the agency participation in the FIRST robotics competition program. This project focuses on exposing high school students to real engineering challenges and projects by having them work side-by-side with professional engineering mentors. Under his leadership for the last fourteen years, the project now directly supports and impacts over 17,000 high school students participating in a variety of robotics and technology competition programs.