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Pathfinder official earns honor

March 10, 2013
By BETTY J. POKAS - Times Leader Area Editor , Times Leader

A FORMER Martins Ferry resident who worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory-NASA for 36 years, beginning in 1962, will be among the four individuals to be inducted April 7 into the Martins Ferry Hall of Honor.

Anthony "Tony" Spear regards his work as project manager for the NASA Mars Pathfinder during the 1990s as his major career achievement.

The induction ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be April 7 at 2 p.m. in the Martins Ferry High School cafetorium. The Citizens Bank is the sponsor for the HofH.

In addition to Spear, others to be inducted into the HofH April 7 will be C. Willis "Bill" Troy, first involved in the Martins Ferry Fire Department and later worked in public safety on the state level; Dr. Simon West, an early Martins Ferry physician who was a surgeon in the Civil War; and James W. Everson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of United Bancorp Inc., Martins Ferry, and former president and CEO of The Citizens Savings Bank.

Spear, who was graduated from St. Mary's Grade School and St. John High School, later obtained a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) as well as master's degrees in electrical engineering (specializing in deep space) from USC-LA and in engineering (system analysis, design and business), from UCLA-LA. After high school graduation, he served in the Air Force from 1954-58.

The former Ferrian's achievements related to space exploration are many, but he also took to the heights in some of his leisure time. In 1979 and 1983, he climbed the Himalayas, reaching 18,000 and 21,000 ft.

Then, there was the time, he was in Athens on the rooftop lounge at the home of Vangelis, who won an Academy Award in 1981 for the best original music score in "Chariots of Fire." Spear noted he could see "the Acropolis lit up in all its glory." Vangelis gave him the crown from the famous movie. Spear showed Pathfinder Mission results to Vangelis and his friends in addition to giving the director a photo of Sojourner against the big Mars Rock Yogi.

Spear was awarded exceptional, distinguished, outstanding public service NASA medals.

"There wasn't a moment at JPL for 36 years when I was not thoroughly involved in missions to Mars, Venus, Mercury, then Earth, then back to Venus and Mars, plus accomplishing interesting work for the military," he noted.

Regarding his work with Pathfinder as his personal best, Spear noted that he studied "Faster, Better, Cheaper Mission concepts in 1991-92 and was assigned as project manager for the Mars Pathfinder in 1993 and was challenged to use FBC methods: low cost, fixed price, quick schedule. The Pathfinder was successfully landed on Mars July 4, 1997, "deploying (the) first Mars Rover named Sojourner, staying on cost and schedule.

In 1969, he designed the Viking Mission Lander to the orbiter data relay link and worked in 1972 on the Mariner Venus Mercury project, achieved four times the science data requirement at Mercury, making the space communication link performance more efficient.

He studied the Venus Mission concept using Seasat radar technology "to see"through clouds, imaging its surface" in the early 1980s.

Spear interrupted his space work to work on intelligence data system development in 1981-82 in Washington, D.C. He "traded Air Force vs. Army radar battlefield surveillance options for Under Secretary of the Army (James) Ambrose, recommending the Air Force solution." It was adopted in 1982.

He designed, built and fielded the first Army Tactical Battlefield Surveillance System in 1985-86.

As deputy project manager for the Magellan Venus Mission in 1984, he got its radar imager on schedule and ready for launch in 1989. Becoming Magellan Project manager in 1989, Spear noted he nursed an ailing spacecraft into the Venus orbit and successfully completed its radar mapping mission, achieving the high resolution map of its surface in 1990.

Before retirement and after the landing of the first Rover on Mars, Spear was involved in advanced outer planet mission study from September 1997 to July 1998. He retired from JPL in July 1998 and traveled the world, lecturing on how to do projects on time within cost. At that time, he was involved in World Wide Consulting from 1998-2012.

Spears said that he began to work for "JPL at the right time, their start-up of deep space robotic exploration when everything was new. JPL needed lots of help, and we learned on the job, improving as we went! It was exciting all the way to my last and magic mission: Mars Pathfinder landing on Mars carrying Sojourner Rover!" He added that the "Tribute to Mars Pathfinder" is on YOU Tube.

A Pasadena resident, Spear has two daughters, Maria Toglia of Philadelphia and Kristen D'Alessio of Los Angeles, as well as four grandchilden.

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.

 
 

 

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