JPL Director Charles Elachi.
JPL Director Charles Elachi received the Lifetime Achievement award as part of Aviation Week's 59th Annual Laureate Awards, presented March 3, 2016, in Washington, DC. Image credit: Chris Zimmer/Aviation Week Network
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Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be honored with a pair of prestigious awards over the next two months: the 2016 Aviation Week Laureate Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the National Space Trophy from the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation.

The Laureate Award, to be presented March 3 at the National Building Museum in Washington, recognizes the "extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams in aviation, aerospace and defense. Their accomplishments embody the spirit of exploration, innovation and vision that inspire others to strive for progress, change and leadership in aviation and aerospace."

Elachi was chosen for "guiding an amazing period of solar system exploration by robotic spacecraft and generating public enthusiasm for space science during his 45-year career." That lengthy career at JPL has included 15 years as director.

"Aerospace, and in particular, space exploration, have made tremendous strides during the past few decades. I'm honored, as part of the JPL team and more recently as the JPL director, to have played a role in the important stories of exploration that inspire the public," Elachi said.

On April 29, Elachi will receive the National Space Trophy from the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation, during a banquet to be held at the Houston Hyatt Regency.

The trophy is presented each year to "an outstanding American who has made major contributions to our nation's space program." The foundation's Board of Advisors includes NASA center directors; aerospace corporation presidents; military, news media, academic and political leaders; and previous trophy winners.

The former director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, A. Thomas Young, nominated Elachi. "Charles Elachi's distinguished leadership and sustained technical achievement have had a profound impact on the U.S. robotic exploration of space across the late 20th and early 21st centuries," said Young. "His contributions and vision have impacted space science and technology, generations of young people and professionals, and society at large."

Upon learning he was to receive the trophy, Elachi said, "I feel so fortunate to be involved in space exploration during an extremely exciting time, when we are rewriting science books, fulfilling humanity's innate quest for discovery, and bringing tangible technology and science advances back to Earth. I am grateful for the invaluable contributions of the teams of dedicated and immensely talented men and women I've worked with through the years."

A full bio of Charles Elachi is at:

An essay about his life path, from a childhood of stargazing in Lebanon, to a four-and-a-half-decade career at JPL, is online at:

On June 30 of this year, Elachi will retire from his post at JPL, but will continue as professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, which manages JPL for NASA. He is already serving as a Caltech vice president and professor of electrical engineering and planetary science.

Elachi joined JPL in 1970. Since then, he has been a researcher and science investigator on numerous space missions and projects, and is credited with pioneering the use of radar remote sensing techniques on such missions as the Shuttle Imaging Radar series, Magellan and Cassini. During his 15 years as JPL director, the Lab has seen more than 25 successful missions, including Mars Curiosity, the Mars Phoenix lander, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the GRAIL lunar mission, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Dawn, Spitzer Space Telescope, NuSTAR, the Jason series, GRACE, Deep Impact, Genesis and the ongoing explorations of the Cassini and Voyager missions.

News Media Contact

Jane Platt
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.