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Donna Shirley

Donna Lee Shirley (born 1941) is a former manager of Mars Exploration at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is the author of the book Managing Martians: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman's Lifelong Quest to Get to Mars—and of the Team Behind the Space Robot That Has Captured the Imagination of the World.

Asteroid 5624 Shirley was named in her honor.


  • Life 1
  • Works 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Shirley was born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma and grew up in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.[1] Her interest in Mars and space exploration began when she read The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke. She began taking flying lessons at age 15.[2] She earned a pilot's license at 16. [3] She graduated from University of Oklahoma with a BS in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in 1965, and from the University of Southern California with a MS in Aerospace Engineering.[4]

She worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab from 1966 to 1998. She was Mars Exploration Program manager,[5] and led teams for Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner (rover).[6] In 2000 she won the Washington Award and in 2003 was inducted in the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame. She was an associate dean of engineering for three years at the University of Oklahoma between 2000 and 2003. She then went on to be the founding director of the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. After retiring from the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in 2004, she became President of Managing Creativity, a platform where she shares her strategies for using the collective creativity of groups to develop ideas, then efficiently and effectively turn them into products. She has become a well-known educator, speaker, and consultant who draws from her prior professional experience.


  • Managing Creativity: A Practical Guide to Inventing, Developing and Producing Innovative Products. 1997. ; E-book
  • Managing Martians. Broadway Books. 1998.  ; Random House Digital, Inc., 2010, ISBN 9780307756831


  1. ^ "Donna Shirley Biography". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  2. ^ Moore, Bill. "Shirley, Donna L.". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Donna Shirley: Inventor of the Week". MIT. 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Misc Information For James Shirley Branch: Donna Lee Shirley". 1997-07-04. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  5. ^ "Mars Global Surveyor Arrival press kit" (PDF). NASA. September 1997. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  6. ^ "Shirley, Donna L. (1941- )". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 

External links

  • Donna Shirley personal bio at
  • Donna Shirley website at
  • The Myths of Mars: Why We're Not There Yet, and How to Get There
  • "Are We Bound for Space?" Panel discussion on The Agenda With Steve Paikin at the Quantum to Cosmos festival with Chris McKay, Chris Hadfield, Robert Richards, Lawrence Krauss, and Karl Schroeder
  • "The Tech Club: Donna Lee Shirley", Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics WAMC
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