Sam Wesley Thurman, PhD

Sam Thurman

Title: Program Area Manager
Company: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Location: Valencia, California, United States

Sam Wesley Thurman, PhD, Program Area Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Executives for dedication, achievements, and leadership in aerospace engineering.

Influenced by his father’s background in military aviation, Dr. Thurman became fascinated by airplanes and space travel upon witnessing NASA’s early achievements in the 1960s and 1970s. Spawning an interest in aerospace engineering, he went on to receive a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University in 1983 and a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. Later on, he achieved a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1995. Aligned with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for 33 years, Dr. Thurman has served as a program and project manager since 2017. His current responsibilities include the oversight of JPL’s space mission formulation activities in the areas of small solar system bodies, such as asteroids and comets, and Planetary Defense, as well as involvement in several other, related space missions and technology development activities. Between 1987 and 2016, he has also been a technical staff member, technology manager, system manager, deputy division manager and deputy program/project manager. In 1985, Dr. Thurman commenced his professional career with the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, remaining for two years.

Garnering a laudable reputation on several major NASA planetary and earth science space missions, Dr. Thurman was involved in Galileo, which launched in 1989, the Mars Pathfinder in 1996, the Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander in 1999, the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011 and the SMAP mission, launched in 2015. He had also been involved in test flight missions with sounding rockets in 2006 and 2010, demonstrating a prototype of terrain-relative guidance capability for future planetary landing missions. A seasoned engineer, he has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and sat on a plethora of committees and panels. Notably, Dr. Thurman was the recipient of JPL “Voyager” Awards for Individual Achievement in 2001, 2016 and 2017. He has also received a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2016, JPL Magellan Award for Senior Management in 2015, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1998 and numerous NASA Group Achievement Awards between 1995 and 2017. He attributes his success to a supportive community of military families growing up and strong parents with good values, along with persistence and hard work. Presently, Dr. Thurman maintains affiliation with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Astronautical Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Engineering Honor Society. In five years’ time, he plans to continue to contribute to further Earth and planetary science and exploration. To attest to his legacy, Dr. Thurman served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1987 to 1995 and can be found in the 24th edition of Who’s Who in the West.

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