LHS alum at NASA given Engineer of the Year award


photo courtesy of NASA

Andy Klesh stands next to one of the spacecraft used on the Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission at a press briefing at Vandenberg Air Force Base two days ahead of InSight’s launch.

Alex Rozar

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer and Class of 2001 graduate Andy Klesh was honored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) as 2020’s Engineer of the Year on Feb. 3.

“As AIAA represents the world’s aerospace community with over 30,000 members, it is a significant honor to be named Engineer of the Year,” Klesh said.

Klesh was chief engineer for the Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission, which traveled to Mars along with the InSight lander, the latest device to land on the planet. 

While above Mars’ atmosphere, two small spacecraft, nicknamed WALL-E and EVE in reference to the Disney film “WALL-E,” separated from InSight. The probes communicated news that InSight had landed back to Earth on Nov. 26, 2018. Klesh was featured in the Feb. 8, 2019 issue of The Image for his work on the program.

Klesh said his work with MarCO was cited in his award nomination.

“I’m extremely proud to help humanity expand our capability for exploration and I’m honored to have been selected by my colleagues for this award,” Klesh said.

In the time since the MarCO mission, Klesh said he’s spent a lot of time briefing others on the spacecrafts’ findings.

“Much of my time has been spent distributing the lessons learned from the mission,” Klesh said. “MarCO was a pathfinder—it is important that the successes (and failures) throughout the mission be well understood.”

However, Klesh said he’s also had the chance to run experiments in extreme climates, some of which took him very far away from the JPL headquarters in Pasadena, California.

“I’ve also been busy with my other projects, primarily supporting scientists and robotic explorers in deep ocean and arctic terrain,” Klesh said. “Over the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to summit Mt. Denali, travel on an icebreaker to explore hydrothermal vents 4,000 meters under the arctic sea and test our buoyant rover amidst the Adelie penguins in Antarctica.”