as it had done when naming pickering and his predecessors, caltech looked to its own ranks to fill the JPL director's chair in 1976. The search settled on Bruce Murray, a forty-three-year-old geology professor—a relatively young man, as Pickering had been when selected, but unlike Pickering, a scientist and not an engineer. JPL at Pickering's retirement numbered more than 4,000 people, with budgets of $250 million. The man chosen to lead it had managed a six-person team of geologists with a $200,000 budget.1 Murray seems to have been selected not for his managerial skills, but rather for his imagination and dynamism. He also came as a champion of imaging experiments, both for scientific return and public appeal; for example, Murray used photos of Mars from Mariner 4 to wow the Senate Space Committee in 1965.2 This knack for political salesmanship and public engagement, which Murray demonstrated in several books for a popular audience, would serve him well in his tenure as director.
Murray had earned his PhD in geology in 1955 at MIT. He had been in the ROTC as an undergraduate and had fulfilled his required two-year service as a lieutenant in the air force, studying the earth's gravitational field to help guide ballistic missiles. He later won a postdoctoral position at Caltech for planetary studies, starting with ground-based telescope observations and then joining the camera teams for the Mariner flights. By Mariners 9 and 10, Murray was head of the camera team, a full professor on campus, and recognized as a leading authority on Martian geology.
Whereas Pickering admitted to "an outlook that is too conservative—shortsighted of the possibilities," Murray counted himself a dreamer and visionary, and he would prove fond of cooking up blue-sky plans for deep space.3 But he, too, betrayed a measure of conservatism. Unlike his good friend Carl
Sagan, who felt free to ponder Martian microbes and balloon animals floating through the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter, Murray shied away from speculation. His main scientific contributions in the Mariner series helped puncture the possibility of life on Mars, leading Sagan to criticize Murray as living "on the side of pessimism." Murray's conservatism extended to his programmatic approach, where he favored cautious, incremental advances in missions instead of large leaps with complex, expensive spacecraft. He had thus opposed what he saw as overly ambitious plans for Mars exploration in the 1960s, dismissing a forerunner of the Viking mission as an "extravagant fantasy" and favoring the step-by-step approach of the Mariner series.4
Murray also exuded a whiff of the counterculture, even as he maintained his connections to military space programs through government advising and consulting for the Rand Corporation through the 1960s.5 Murray viewed the 1970s as a period of unprecedented revolutionary change. In a talk in 1977 he declared that "materialism, in the sense of simply more and more, just does not make sense any longer"; instead, "quality will rule over quantity." Unlike many counterculture critics, Murray did not reject technoscience; on the contrary, technological advances were, in his view, driving the social revolution. He did, however, urge that technologists shed their elitist isolation and integrate with society, and he called as well for smaller, decentralized technological systems.6 Murray's approach extended to his sartorial style, which consisted of shorts and sandals before he became director and tended toward casual shirts instead of conservative suits and ties afterwards.
Above all, Murray represented change—not just in the director's seat, but also as a personal philosophy, an attitude that perhaps won him the job from Caltech administrators seeking "a breath of fresh air" at JPL.7 Murray's forthright, opinionated personality ensured a stiff breeze. Change could be good for an institution that had developed set ways of doing things and was seeking new directions in an uncertain environment. But change also threatened the stability offered by a highly organized institution. Like all large organizations, JPL faced the basic problem of balancing stability and change, of reducing risk without stifling innovation. JPL had been tilting toward the risk-reduction side for years. Murray would jump on the other side of the balance, rhetorically at least, but his underlying conservatism also led him to perpetuate certain traits of the lab, most importantly its approach to building spacecraft.
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