For pioneering contributions to deterministic and stochastic optimal control theory and their applications to aerospace engineering, including spacecraft, aircraft, and turbulent flows
Jason L. Speyer received a B.S. in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, Cambridge and Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. He is the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Distinguished Professor in Engineering in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and the Electrical Engineering Department, UCLA. He was the Harry H. Power Professor in Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas, Austin from 1976-1990. His industrial experience from 1960-1976 includes research at Boeing, Raytheon, Analytical Mechanics Associated, and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. He was a Senior Weizmann Fellow, Department of Mathematics, Weizmann Institute of Science in the (September, 1972- August, 1973), the Lady Davis Professor, Department of Aeronautics, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (February 1983-June 1983), and the Jerome C. Hunsaker Visiting Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1989-1990). He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Technion (2013). He coauthored, with W. H. Chung, Stochastic Processes, Estimation, and Control (SIAM, 2008), and coauthored, with D. H. Jacobson, Primer on Optimal Control Theory (SIAM, 2010). He served as Associate Editor for Technical Notes and Correspondence (1975–1976) and Stochastic Control (1978–1979), IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, for AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics (1977–1978), and for Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications (1981-present). As the Principal Investigator, the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award was given to UCLA Autonomous Vehicle System Instrumentation Laboratory (2002) for exceptional service, commitment, and dedication toward the successful development of the Dryden Flight Research Center Autonomous Flight Formation project. He was General Chairman for the 2004 American Control Conference and Program Chairman for the 1987 American Controls Conference. He is a life fellow of the IEEE and fellow of the AIAA and was awarded the AIAA Mechanics and Control of Flight Award, AIAA Dryden Lectureship in Research, Air Force Exceptional Civilian Decoration (1991 and 2001), IEEE Third Millennium Medal, AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Award, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Text of Acceptance Speech:
I am extremely grateful and humbled by being honored to receive the Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award for 2016. I thank those that recommended me and the awards committee for supporting that nomination. I also thank my colleagues, students, family and especially my wife for the support I have received over these many years.
For me this award occurs at an auspicious time and place. Boston is the place of my birth and my home. It was sixty years ago that I graduated from Malden High School and entered into a world I could never have anticipated; a world where I would be nurtured for the next twenty years by many people, some of whom have been recipients of this esteemed award.
I enrolled in the Department of Aeronautics at MIT, which after Sputnik became the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In my junior year I entered into the space age. More consequential for me was that the department head was Doc (Charles Stark) Draper, whose second volume of his three sequence series on Instrument Engineering (1952) was one the first books on what we know as Classical Control covering such topics as Evens root locus, Bode plots, Nyquist criterion, and Nichols charts. Doc Draper instituted an undergraduate course in classical control that I took my junior year. This inspired me to take a graduate course and write my undergraduate thesis in controls.
After graduation in 1960 I left Boston to work for Boeing in Seattle. There, I worked with my lead engineer Raymond Morth, who introduced me to the new world of control theory using state space that was just emerging in the early 1960’s. I learned of dynamic programming of Richard Bellman for global sufficiency of an optimal trajectory and the Pontryagin Maximum principle inspired by the deficiency of dynamic programing to solve certain classes of optimization problems. The Bushaw problem of determining the minimum time to the origin of a double integrator was just such a problem, since the optimal return function in dynamic programing is not differentiable at the switching curve and the Bellman theory did not apply. Interestingly, for my bachelor’s thesis I applied the results of the Bushaw problem to the minimum time problem of bringing the yaw and yaw rate of an aircraft to the origin. However, at that time I had no idea about the ramification of the Bushaw problem to optimization theory. I also learned of the work of Rudolf Kalman in estimation, the work of Arthur Bryson and Henry Kelley in the development of numerical methods for determining optimal constrained trajectories, and J. Halcombe (Hal) Laning and Richard Battin on the determination of orbits for moon rendezvous.
After an incredible year at Boeing I returned to Boston to work at the Analytical Research Department at Raytheon, where Art Bryson was a consultant. There, I worked with a student of Bryson, Walter Denham. We were contracted by MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory, monitored by Richard Battin, to enhance the Apollo autonomous navigation system over the trans-Lunar orbit. We developed a scheme for determining the optimal angle-measurement sequence between the best stars in a catalogue and near and far horizons of the Earth or the Moon using a sextant. This angle-measurement sequence minimized some linear function of the terminal value of the error covariance of position and velocity near the Earth or Moon. Our optimization scheme, which required a matrix dynamic constraint, seemed to be a first. This scheme, used in the Apollo autonomous navigation system, was tested on Apollo 8, and used on every mission thereon. My next task at Raytheon was working on neighboring optimal guidance scheme. This work was with Art Bryson and John Breakwell. I remember travelling to Lockheed’s Palo Alto Research Laboratory and meeting with John, the beginning of a long and delightful collegial relationship.
After my first two years at Raytheon I somehow convinced Art Bryson to take me on as a graduate student at Harvard, supported by the Raytheon Fellowship program. To understand the intellectual level I had to contend with, on my doctorial preliminary exam committee, three of the four examiners were recipients of the Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award; Art Bryson, Larry (Yu-Chi) Ho, and Bob (Kumpati) Narendra, all of whom have been my life time colleagues. I was also fortunate to take a course taught by Rudy Kalman. Surprisingly, he taught many of the controls areas he had pioneered, except filtering for Gauss-Markov systems (the Kalman filter); the Aizerman conjecture, the Popov criterion and Lyopunov functions, duality in linear systems, optimality for linear-quadratic systems, etc. After finishing my PhD thesis on optimal control problems with state variable inequality constraints, I returned to Raytheon. Fortunately, Art Bryson made me aware of some interest at Raytheon in using modern control theory for developing guidance laws for a new missile. At Raytheon’s Missile Division I worked with Bill O’Halloran on the homing missile guidance system where Bill worked on development of the Kalman filter and I worked on the development of the linear-quadratic closed-form guidance gains that had to include the nonminimal phase autopilot. This homing missile, the Patriot missile system, appears to be the first fielded system using modern control theory.
I left Boston for New York to work at the Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA), in particular, with Hank Kelley. Although I had a lasting friendship with Hank, I only lasted seven months in New York before returning to the AMA office in Cambridge. Unfortunately, the Cambridge NASA Center closed, and I took a position under Dick Battin at the Instrumentation (later the Charles Stark Draper) Laboratory at MIT. There, I worked on the necessary and sufficient conditions for optimality of singular control problems, the linear-exponential-Gaussian control problem, optimal control problems with state variable inequality constraints, optimal control problems with cost criterion and dynamic functions with kinks, and periodic optimal control problems. On many of these issues I collaborated with David Jacobson, whom I first met in the open forum of my PhD final exam. This remarkable collaboration culminated in our book on optimal control theory that appeared in 2010. Also, during my tenure at Draper, I took a post-doctoral year leave at the Weizmann institute in Israel. Here, I learned that I could work very happily by myself. A few years after returning to Draper, I started what is now a forty year career in academia and I left Boston.
As I look back, I feel so fortunate that I had such great mentoring over my early years and by so many who have won this award. My success over the last forty years has been due to my many students who have worked with me to mold numerous new ideas together. Today, I find the future as bright as anytime in my past. I have embarked in such new directions as estimation and control of linear systems with additive noises described by heavy tailed Cauchy probability density functions with my colleague Moshe Idan at the Technion and deep space navigation using pulsars as beacons with JPL.
To conclude, I am grateful to so many of my teachers, colleagues and students, who have nurtured, inspired, and educated me. Without them and my loving wife and family, I would not be here today. Thank you all.
 Boldface names are recipients of the Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award.