Karen McBride


Mars Scout Program Executive,
NASA HQ


Karen McBride

Karen McBride studied Geology at Oregon State University and UCLA and followed up at UCLA with Geochemistry graduate work. Recent years have been spent in various collaborative projects between UCLA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA Headquarters.

Previously she worked with the Mars Pathfinder team on the first Discovery competition to submit a proposal at UCLA using the Pathfinder design to go the northern Martian polar region, a proposal that was rejected because airbags were questionable. While working on the Pathfinder project, and with a limited budget to support her role, Karen made ends meet by managing the White Mountain Research Station in Bishop, Calif., for UCLA.

Subsequently, she joined JPL, working on the Galileo Project, where she was a science coordinator for operations of the Photopolarimeter Radiometer instrument.

At UCLA she helped write the proposal that was selected by NASA as the science package for the Mars Polar Lander project and she became the UCLA project manager for both the science package and for the science center that was built at UCLA to operate it. After Mars Polar Lander was lost during descent, and as part of the transitions engendered by the failure, Karen later ran a particle physics instrument for UCLA.

In 2002 she joined NASA HQ to run the Mars Scout program, which sought to send low-cost and exciting missions to Mars. The Phoenix Mission was selected as the first under this program.

At NASA HQ, Karen also has worked on Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, the Mars Instrument Development Program, and a Mars sampling handling facility to safely process samples that may be returned by future Mars sample return missions. She was the initial program scientist and program executive for Phoenix.

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