Project Management Institute

Mars Pathfinder mission

1998 international project of the year

The Mars Pathfinder project stands as a paradigm of the ultimate project management goal: better, faster, cheaper. This article discusses the project management techniques used by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology; by using these techniques, JPL designed and built a space vehicle capable of collecting data and performing experiments. Working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Office of Space Science, JPL realized this complex project on a tight US$150 million budget and within an aggressive three-year timeline. The article explains the cooperative atmosphere that evolved between the stakeholders, a relationship that generated clearly defined project objectives and minimized conventional bureaucratic measures. A sidebar outlines the scientific findings of Mars that this vehicle enabled NASA to obtain, findings that have advanced human understanding of the red planet.
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