We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



Red. Intense radiation. Rocks. Dusty soil. Unearthly. 119 million miles away. Mars. Thanks to Donna Shirley, the forbidding fourth planet has become accessible. In her memoir, Managing Martians, Shirley delves into childhood dreams of reaching Mars and her struggle for success in the male-dominated field of space and aeronautics. As the first woman to head a NASA program, she distinguished herself by achieving the previously elusive goal of a cheap, autonomous, and mobile data collector that would earn its fare to Mars. Shirley was manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Exploration Program and headed the team of engineers that constructed her “baby,” the Sojourner, the microwave oven-sized rover that drove itself around the planet and relayed color photographs of the surface back to Earth. The truth was out there—hear Shirley discuss how she brought some of it home at 6 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. $13. (202) 357-3030. (Liz Eckstein)