Designer of Mars Lander

“Designer of Mars Lander,” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 68

Designer of Mars Lander

Last July, space enthusiasts across the globe were dazzled by new photographs of Mars—the first taken in more than 20 years. One man who found the photographs especially gratifying was Brian Okerlund, bishop of the Littlerock Ward, Palmdale California Stake.

As lead designer of the Mars lander, Brother Okerlund was instrumental in the success of the Pathfinder mission. He was involved in the lander’s original design work and, with 14 other designers, helped ensure that the lander’s components, including the camera, were properly positioned.

The work “was pretty fast paced,” he says of the three-year project. “We had to use a good design team to get it done in that amount of time.”

Brother Okerlund, a Brigham Young University graduate in design technology, has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, for more than 14 years. He is currently working on the MLS, or microwave limb sounder—an earth-orbiting satellite that will study the ozone layer.

He says his experience of working with one of man’s landmark inventions has only increased his awe for the Savior’s creations. “When you see how small this thing actually is on the surface of Mars—the whole lander is shorter than I am when it’s folded up—it’s pretty insignificant to the things that the Lord has been able to create,” he says.