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Paul G. Backes' Picture
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M/S 82-105
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Member of:
Robotic Manipulation and Sampling Group

Paul G. Backes, Ph.D.
Group Supervisor
(Short description>>)

Paul Backes is group supervisor of the Mobility and Manipulation group in the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, where he has been since 1987. His current activities focus on automated planetary manipulation, instrument placement, sample acquisition, and sample handling. Early in his career Dr. Backes performed research and development for telerobotic single and dual-arm on-orbit servicing. He then worked on telerobotics for Air Force aircraft maintenance including the design and development of a small robot that could crawl over the surface of large aircraft for automated inspection. He then applied his telerobotics knowledge to development of a distributed operations system for visualization of downlink data and specification of uplink activities for Mars lander and rover missions which was applied to terrestrial field test rovers, Mars Polar Lander mission lander arm command sequence generation, and recently Mars Exploration Rover mission science activity planning.

Dr. Backes received the BSME degree from U.C. Berkeley in 1982, MSME in 1984 and Ph.D. in 1987 in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Backes received the 1993 NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for his contributions to space telerobotics, 1993 Space Station Award of Merit, Best Paper Award at the 1994 World Automation Congress, 1995 JPL Technology and Applications Program Exceptional Service Award, 1998 JPL Award for Excellence, 1998 NASA Software of the Year Award Sole Runner-up, and 2004 NASA Software of the Year Award. He has served as an Associate Editor of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Magazine

Ph.D., M.E., Purdue University, 1987
M.S., M.E., Purdue University, 1984
B.S., M.E., University of California at Berkeley, 1982

- Group Supervisor of Mobility and Manipulation Group, in Autonomy and Control section, JPL, 2005 - continuing
- Technical Group Leader, Telerobotics Research & Applications Group, JPL (1991-2005).
- SBIR subtopic manager for robotics subtopics (1994-2000).
- Task Manager for 20 research tasks at JPL since 1990.
- Lead for 2003 NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission Science Activity Planner tool development.
- Lead for 1998 NASA Mars Polar Lander mission ground operations tool development for Robotic Arm sequence generation.
- Assistant Professor, California State University at Los Angeles (1991).
- Associate Editor of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Magazine, 5/93 - 5/98.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) member.
- Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society member.

- 1998 Mars Polar Lander: Led development of the Web Interface for Telescience used for lander arm and arm camera visualization and sequence planning.
- 2003 Mars Exploration Rover: Led development of the Science Activity Planner used for downlink data visualization and uplink science activity plan generation.

Flight Project and Research Task Involvement

Flight Projects:
2003 - Mars Exploration Rover

Research Tasks:
Autonomous Robotic Manipulator Control
BiBlade Sampler for Small Body Sample Return
Enceladus Surface Sample Acquisition for In Situ Measurements
MACS: Multifunction Automated Crawling System
Planetary Sample Sealing for Caching
Sample Acquisition and Caching for a Potential Mars Caching Mission
SCAIP: Integrated System for Single Command Approach and Instrument Placement
STELER: Supervised Telerobotics Laboratory
Whole Rover-Arm Coordination

Automated instrument placement from planetary landers and rover. Automated planetary manipulation for sample acquisition and handling and in-situ resource utilization. On-orbit robotics and telerobotics.

- 2004 NASA Software of the Year award for Science Activity Planner.
- Received the most NASA Space Act awards (17) of anyone in NASA in 2003.
- 2002 NASA Honor Award, Group Achievement Award, WITS Team.
- 2002 JPL Level C Award for WITS/SAP team management.
- 2001 NASA Space Act Award for development of the Multifunction Automated Crawling System (MACS).
- 2000 Certificate of Commendation, TMOD Technology Program, to WITS/MECS Research Team, for rover collaborative operations
- 2000 NASA IT Best Practices and Success Stories Selection for WITS system (one of three from JPL).
- 2000 NASA Honor Award, Group Achievement Award: Exploration Technology Rover Task Team: In recognition of outstanding work on the ET-Rover task and recent development of the Field Integrated Design and Operations (FIDO) rover and its successful field trial. Dan Goldin, May 16, 2000.
- 1999 JPL NOVA Team Award: Automated Rover Sequence Generation Team: In recognition of outstanding achievement in design and demonstration of an advanced planning and scheduling system for automation of rover command generation and validation. June 1999.
- 1998 NASA Software of the Year Award, Sole Runner-Up for Web Interface for Telescience (WITS).
- 1998 JPL Award for Excellence (Individual-Technical category).
- Technology and Applications Programs Group Achievement Award, JPL, December 1997.
- Times Pick Award, Los Angeles Times, for Pathfinder public outreach WITS web site, July 7, 1997.
- NOVA Award, JPL, August 1997.
- Technology and Applications Programs Exceptional Service Award, JPL, December 1995.
- Best Paper Award, World Automation Congress, August 1994.
- Space Station Award of Merit, July 1993.
- NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, 1993.
- Certificate of Merit Award, 1991 INTERCOMIndustrial Film & Video Festival.

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