Dick "Spe" Spehalski leads the engineers who designed the most complex interplanetary spacecraft ever created: Cassini. The spacecraft--including its orbiter and Huygens probe to the moon Titan--is currently winging its way towards a rendezvous with Saturn in 2004. But for five years prior to its October '97 launch, Spehalski championed the mission past cancellation threats by cutting weight, lowering power requirements, and putting the project back on track. And when it came to resolving complex engineering issues with the project's 16 international partners, Spehalski was the man everyone turned to. This isn't the first time NASA tapped him to lead one of the agency's flagship programs; he also served as project manager for the Galileo mission to Jupiter. Following a term as project manager for the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, Spehalski retired in June 1998, but not before NASA awarded him its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Researchers have been working on a number of alternative chemistries to lithium-ion for next-gen batteries, silicon-air among them. However, while the technology has been viewed as promising and cost-effective, to date researchers haven’t managed to develop a battery of this chemistry with a viable running time -- until now.
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