Brian Muirhead

Project Manager, Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission
Former Chief Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Author, Going to Mars and High Velocity Leadership

High performance leadership, winning teams and innovation.

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Biography

Few people in business today have managed teams as high performance or as successful as those Brian Muirhead has led for NASA.

Brian Muirhead is a hands-on leader working at the front lines of some of the greatest technical and management challenges of today. His experiences and insights as a team builder, technologist, problem solver, and culture change innovator make him an exciting and compelling speaker.

Brian can show your organization the techniques that have made him an award-winning leadership innovator, implementing solutions to seemingly impossible challenges and delivering results.

He will give you imaginative new ways of doing business, a people-oriented management style, and a score of practical, broadly applicable business solutions.

His exciting stories of deep space exploration and its challenges are surprisingly applicable to business right here on Earth. His practical applications of “rocket science” will help you lead your organization to success in the future.

A recipient of two of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medals, Brian has worked in both robotic and human exploration. He was Chief Engineer of the Mars Science Laboratory during the invention of Sky Crane, which was used to achieve the Mars rover Curiosity’s spectacular landing on Mars in 2012. As the former Chief Architect of NASA’s Constellation project, aimed at establishing a permanent base on the moon in preparation for human exploration of Mars, he led the development of a viable architecture for human exploration beyond earth orbit.

Currently, Brian is the Project Manager for the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission, to land on a large asteroid, land on it, pick up an approximately 3 m (10 ft) boulder, and return the boulder to an orbit around the moon, where a human crew will bring a sample back to Earth. He is also former Chief Engineer of Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Brian is the author of the highly-praised book High Velocity Leadership. His second book, Going to Mars, (with Gar and Judy Reeves-Stevens), offers an insightful and personal look behind the scenes at the leaders that make today’s exploration of Mars possible.

Brian is a compelling storyteller with exciting stories based on in-depth knowledge and wisdom that only comes from real hands-on experience. With passion and intelligence, he will share with you the excitement and challenges of exploring the unknown while providing insights and practices that you can apply in your own organization.

Mission Leadership

Brian has led teams whose work has significantly advanced the body of human knowledge through the exploration of space. He has achieved extraordinary successes, in the face of seemingly impossible challenges, under daunting budget and schedule constraints, while pushing the state-of-the-art in technology.

One key to Brian’s success is creating an environment that takes advantage of and maximizes "the skill, integrity and personal ownership of literally every member of the team."

His stories of people overcoming crises and delivering spectacular results are tuned to the needs and interests of his audiences and are as insightful and applicable as they are exciting and motivational.

Credentials

  • Project Manager, Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission
  • Former Chief Engineer, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Former, Chief Architect, NASA’s Constellation program to the Moon and Beyond
  • Former, Chief Engineer, Mars Science Laboratory
  • Project Manager, Mars Pathfinder Mission
  • Senior advisor to the Mars Exploration Rovers
  • Project Manager, Deep Impact Mission
  • Engineer of the Year for 1997 by Design News magazine
  • 1997 Laureate for Space by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine
  • Author, High Velocity Leadership: The Mars Pathfinder Approach to Faster, Better, Cheaper (with Bill Simon, HarperBusiness, 1999)
  • Author, Going to Mars (with Gar and Judy Reeve-Stevens, Simon and Schuster, 2004)
  • Since joining JPL in 1978, he has worked on many challenging high technology missions including the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Earth-orbiting Spaceborne Imaging Radar (SIR-C)
  • Master’s degree in Aeronautical engineering, California Institute of Technology
  • Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, University of New Mexico

Books

Going to Mars

The Stories of the People Behind NASA's Mars Missions Past, Present, and Future

Brian Muirhead, Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Judith Reeves-Stevens

Written by the leader of the Mars Pathfinder program, Brian Muirhead, and the acclaimed science fiction writers Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Going to Mars is more than a dry compendium of facts about our sister planet. In it, the authors reveal the human side of space exploration, detailing the never-before-told stories of personal triumphs and tragedies, the complex drama of powerful personalities in collision, and the behind-the-scenes conflicts that threatened to derail one of the most remarkable technological achievements of our time.

The groundbreaking Mars Pathfinder mission inaugurated an entirely new approach to space exploration. No longer the exclusive domain of male scientists with crew cuts, white shirts, and billion-dollar budgets, this team was one of the most unusual and youngest assortments of scientists and engineers ever assembled at NASA. Going to Mars is their story.

The book is enriched by special sections that provide complete, detailed, and easy-to-follow guides to the intricacies of space science. It also looks at the history of our culture's interaction with the Red Planet, from Hollywood versions of Mars exploration to the first Viking missions, and to the future. The book presents the best predictions of science fiction and science fact (as well as the most humorous and least plausible), and offers a detailed examination of NASA's developing plans that might one day lead us from the first human footprint on Mars to the first self-sustaining habitat. Illustrated with hundreds of photographs, drawings, cartoons, and computer-generated images, most never published before, and many from the personal collections of the people whose story this is, Going to Mars is the insider's guide to humanity's ultimate adventure.

Pocket (December 21, 2004)

High Velocity Leadership

Managing Speed and Direction in the World of Faster-Better-Cheaper

Brian Muirhead

At age forty-one, Brian Muirhead assembled a team that would have to build a spacecraft and land it on Mars for one-twentieth the cost and in half the time of the previous Mars effort twenty years earlier. Experts who were sure the team could not succeed were stunned on Independence Day 1997, when Pathfinder landed safely on Mars and, aided by its self-propelled, toy-wagon-size rover, Sojourner, began sending back reams of scientific data and thousands of breathtaking color photographs from a rock-strewn terrain under a salmon-colored sky. In this fast-paced personal account, Muirhead and coauthor William L. Simon explain how the Pathfinder team overcame the odds by discarding the familiar and replacing it with imaginative new technology, a highly unusual organizational structure, and a score of innovative business solutions ranging from the geography of the workplace to ways of speeding up procurement to an intuitive style of decision making on the run. A chronicle of personal struggles and sacrifices that led to a historic triumph of space exploration, High Velocity Leadership provides powerful guidance on how Faster, Better, Cheaper can be put to work in your own organization.

Babbage Press (30 Nov 2004)
HarperCollins Publishers (March 1999)

Topics

Brian tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Architecting for Success

Brian Muirhead has recently been applying his knowledge and innovative techniques in architecting systems to one of the most complex systems known to man, the human exploration of space. Let him show you with real, relevant techniques, insights and examples of how “architecting” can help your organization overcome seemingly impossible challenges and deliver top and bottom line results in significant and lasting ways.

High Velocity Leadership: Leadership, People and Innovation

Brian’s Muirhead uses stories, pictures and video to communicate the power of people, innovation and leaders to produce world class results under seemingly impossible constraints. He tunes his talks to the needs of the customer by drawing parallels between the exploration of deep space and their business. These parallels are sometimes surprising and always motivating.

Videos

NASA Fact-checks Star Trek's Starship Enterprise | Wired

Going to Mars | USI

Feedback

A customer engagement marketing firm:
Brian was great. As the CEO of my company said, his speech was an 11/10. It conveyed the exact message we wanted to send while also presenting an interesting story and background information. I was worried that he wasn’t going to be able to leave the event in time from the amount of questions that people wanted to ask him.

A major insurance company:
We were very pleased with Brian’s presentation, and even more so with his wonderful personality. He was a pleasure to work with as we helped shape his messaging to our needs, and very friendly and talkative to audience members throughout the meeting day during breaks and lunch. I know he worked hard to tailor his presentation to our needs, and it showed. He made it easy for our speakers who came after him to refer back to many of his points and tie some of our goals and initiatives to his experiences.

I would highly recommend Brian to others in the future. Also, I am very appreciative of your services as we came to you fairly late in the game and still found us a great speaker. It is clear we should have began our search with Leigh Bureau, and plan to do that with future meetings.

An executive development center of a business school:
HOME RUN!!!

Brian did a great job. He worked to customize his presentation and arrived early to sit in on sessions and get a feel for the group. The results were great. His material closely matched the group's interest. And his messages regarding management and leadership were on target. Our client is very happy.

On another note, Brian was easy to work with and eager to do what was needed to satisfy this client.

A global human resources consulting firm:
I would like to thank you for all your help and support in making this year's event a great success! Brian Muirhead has become one of my favourite speakers and he is in the 1st place (participants ranking) from the speakers of the event.

A systems & software technology company:
Brian put on a great show, receiving kudos from many attendees afterwards. A consummate professional, he arrived the afternoon before our event, and took time to dine with our VP of Technical Operations and other Consortium staff members that evening (to let us pick his brains, I suspect!). He sat in our morning session to get a feel for our event, audience, and key issues, and then wisely went to the luncheon ballroom to get his AV working to spec. So when we arrived for lunch, Brian was good to go. His multi-media videostreams had us all open-mouthed in wonder & applauding the successful landing of the Mars Pathfinder (Rover?) and "Deep Impact" strike, and his lessons-learned in building the successful teams that achieved these successes were of great benefit to our audience of senior executives.

Thanks again for your endorsement of Brian for our audience, and all your support in getting us hooked up. I look forward to our next Leigh Bureau speaker!