Alejandro Miguel San Martín Wins 2020 Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship in Aerospace Engineering Written 14 September 2020


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Alejandro Miguel San Martín | Wikipedia; CC BY-SA 4.0

Will Deliver October Address on “From Airbags to Wheels: The Evolution of GN&C for Entry, Descent, and Landing”

September 11, 2020 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) are pleased to announce that they have selected Alejandro Miguel San Martín, Guidance & Control Section Chief Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as the recipient of the fourth Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship in Aerospace Engineering.

San Martín will present his lecture, “From Airbags to Wheels: The Evolution of GN&C for Entry, Descent, and Landing” on Wednesday, 7 October 2020, 1100–1200 hrs ET, in conjunction with the virtual NAE Annual Meeting.  This is a free lecture, open to the public. For more information and to register, please visit

San Martín was born on 6 January 1959 on his family farm in Villa Regina, Rio Negro in northern Patagonia. He grew up in Buenos Aires. After graduating from the Don Bosco industrial school, Pius IX, he came to the United States to pursue his university studies and his dream of contributing to space exploration by working for NASA. He graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, being named Engineering Student of the Year. He received his Masters degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering with a specialization in Guidance, Navigation, and Control for interplanetary space exploration. Upon graduation, he was hired by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NASA center that specializes in interplanetary space exploration. 

Early in his career, he participated in the Magellan mission to Venus and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He was later named Chief Engineer for the Guidance, Navigation, and Control system for the Pathfinder mission, which landed Sojourner, the first robotic vehicle to land on Mars. He later assumed the same role for the highly successful mission that landed the robotic vehicles Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004. Most recently, he was the Chief Engineer for Guidance, Navigation, and Control for the Mars Science Laboratory, which successfully landed the one-ton rover Curiosity, on the surface of Mars on 5 August 2012. He was a co-architect of Curiosity’s innovative SkyCrane landing architecture and also served as its Deputy Chief for Entry, Descent, and Landing. Throughout his career, San Martín has served as a panel consultant for various missions including Topex, Mars Polar Lander, Deep Impact, and Phoenix.

AIAA, with the participation and support of NAE, created the Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship in Aerospace Engineering to honor the memory of the late, pioneering rocket scientist, AIAA Honorary Fellow, and NAE Member Yvonne C. Brill. Brill was best known for developing a revolutionary propulsion system that remains the industry standard for geostationary satellite station-keeping.

The lecture emphasizes research or engineering issues for space travel and exploration, aerospace education of students and the public, and other aerospace issues such as ensuring a diverse and robust engineering community.

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

About NAE

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. For further information, visit