From NASA to Rendcomb – Mars Rover expert and former pupil to return for school’s 100th birthday

14 Apr 2020

Rendcomb College, the independent co-educational school in Gloucestershire for children aged 3 to 18 has today announced who their

guest speaker will be for their 100th birthday celebrations in May this year.

Doug Ellison, a former student at Rendcomb College, works on NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity as their ECAM Team Lead and will be the College’s keynote speaker at the school’s Founder’s Day event for pupils, parents and staff on Friday, 22 May. Doug has commanded the acquisition of over 10,000 images by robotic spacecraft on the surface of Mars. Since landing on the Red Planet in August 2012, Curiosity has discovered evidence of an ancient habitable lake bed environment on Mars.

Speaking about going back to his old school, Doug said: “I am beyond thrilled to be returning to Rendcomb to help celebrate the College’s centenary on their Founder’s Day. 23 years after leaving, I still look upon my time there fondly. I’m looking forward to spending some time with students and hopefully inspiring them to reach for the stars.”

Head of Rendcomb College, Rob Jones said: “We are so excited that Doug is returning to speak at the College. Rendcomb puts the pupils at the centre of their education and encourages them to follow their passions. Doug is a wonderful example and role model of where the combination of creativity, imagination and adventure can lead you.”

Opened on 2nd June 1920 for just 12 boys, Rendcomb College will celebrate its centenary throughout 2020 with a number of events. The annual Founder’s Day each May remembers Frederick Noel Hamilton Wills who purchased the Rendcomb estate and surrounding grounds with the view of opening a school to provide a free and broad-ranging education for local boys. Now, 100 years on, Rendcomb College educates almost 400 boys and girls from across Gloucestershire, the UK and the world. A number of 100% funded school places continue to be offered to children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford the school fees. Full details of the programme of events can be found at:

Doug Ellison Biography

A space enthusiast from an early age, Doug left Rendcomb College in 1997 to study engineering at the University of Birmingham, but soon changed courses to study Multimedia Design at De Montfort University in Leicester. After graduating he spent 8 years as a Multimedia Producer for a medical education company. In his spare time he processed publicly available data from a variety of spacecraft exploring the solar system.

This work gained the attention of staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California who invited him to talk about amateur contributions to space exploration at two conferences.

In 2010 he moved to Los Angeles to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory full time. For 5 years he was a producer in a Visualization group dedicated to education and public outreach where his work included Technical direction for Eyes on the Solar System, the Spacecraft 3D AR App, DSN Now and the Mars Science Laboratory landing animation.

In 2015 he was producer on a Microsoft HoloLens project called “Destination: Mars” which enabled 28,000 visitors to the Kennedy Space Center to virtually ‘walk’ on Mars.

He moved into mission operations in 2016, as an Engineering Camera Payload Uplink Lead on both the Curiosity and Opportunity Mars Rovers. Since 2019, he has been the ECAM Team Lead for Curiosity, and has commanded the acquisition of over 10,000 images by robotic spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Design by his Alma mater, De Montfort University.