montage of planets
Montage of our solar system. Image credit: NASA/JPL
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PASADENA, Calif. - Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has announced three personnel appointments effective on Aug. 15. Firouz M. Naderi has been named the Director for Solar System Exploration. Naderi has been serving as JPL's Associate Director for Project Formulation and Strategy, a position that will now be filled by Jakob van Zyl. In addition, Dave Gallagher will become the Director for Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology.

In his new role, Naderi will oversee JPL's robotic solar system missions, including new projects under development and such currently operating projects as the Cassini orbiter at Saturn and the Dawn spacecraft at the giant asteroid Vesta, as well as two missions about to be launched: Juno to Jupiter and GRAIL to Earth's moon. In addition, he will be responsible for JPL's work supporting NASA's human spaceflight program, which is being merged into the laboratory's Solar System Exploration Directorate.

In naming him to this new position, Elachi said, "Firouz brings a unique wealth of experience in project, program and institutional management, as well as NASA Headquarters experience. In the past, whenever I have had an organizational challenge or opportunity, Firouz is one of the first people I have turned to. Fifteen years ago, I asked him to shape the Origins program, which technologically put us in a leadership position that still pays dividends. In 2000, in a critical time in the life of the Mars Program, NASA selected him as the program manager, and he helped turn that program into a spectacular success for JPL and NASA.

"Then six years ago I went to him again, this time asking him to define the new position of Associate Director for Formulation, and he has put in place a framework that will help JPL for years to come," Elachi added. "Our current challenge is to make planetary missions more innovative, less expensive and yet do great science. I need Firouz to lead a great group of people to make sure JPL retains its global leadership in solar system exploration."

Naderi is a recipient of a number of awards, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal and the space agency's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, which cites his "distinguished contribution to space science and exploration." He is also the recipient of a Space Technology Hall of Fame Medal, and Ellis Island Medal of Honor for "outstanding contributions that have enriched American society and exemplify its cultural diversity." Most recently he was recognized by the American Astronautical Society with its William Randolph Lovelace II Award. Naderi is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Naderi, who was born in Shiraz, Iran, and moved to the United States 45 years ago, holds three degrees in electrical engineering: a bachelor's from Iowa State University in Ames, and a master's and doctorate from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

In his new position, Jakob van Zyl will oversee long-term strategic planning for JPL and will coordinate advance studies, acquisition of new missions and development of projects early in their life cycle. Previously he was Director for Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology.

"Jakob van Zyl is one of our strongest assets in JPL's executive leadership," said JPL Director Charles Elachi. "His vision and intellectual command of our complex enterprise will provide essential strengths as we lay out how the laboratory can best serve NASA and the nation in the years ahead."

A native of Namibia, van Zyl received an honors degree cum laude in electronics engineering from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He received both his master's and his doctorate in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Joining JPL in 1986, van Zyl held positions of increasing responsibility in the synthetic aperture radar program, and managed the Radar Science and Engineering Section, the Earth Science Flight Missions and Experiments Office, and the Focused Physical Oceanography and Solid Earth Program Office. He later served as deputy director for the Astronomy and Physics Directorate before heading that directorate.

He has been an adjunct faculty member in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Southern California, where he taught the class "Remote Sensing Systems from Space" from 1997 to 2001. Since 2002, he has been teaching the class "Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing" at Caltech. He remains involved in synthetic aperture radar research, and is a member of the science definition team for the planned Soil Moisture Active Passive mission.

Van Zyl and his wife, Kalfie, live in Altadena, Calif.

In his new post, Dave Gallagher will direct JPL's programs searching for planets around other stars and studying the origins of galaxies and the universe using space-based instruments, telescopes and robotic spacecraft, including such successful missions as the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and JPL's participation in the European Space Agency's current Herschel and Planck missions. In 2012, JPL will launch the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, spacecraft, an X-ray telescope that will search for black holes, map supernova explosions and study the most extreme active galaxies.

"Dave Gallagher will provide dynamic leadership to our astronomy and physics programs, as well as our space technology portfolio " said Elachi. "Dave is a strong advocate, and brings great energy to his work. These qualities will serve JPL well as we work with NASA to define the astronomy missions and space technology demonstrations of the next decade."

Born in 1960, Gallagher received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1982. After working for IBM for several years, he operated a consulting firm before joining JPL in 1989.

Gallagher has led several flight projects during his JPL career, including the Space Interferometry Mission, the Spitzer Space Telescope Project, the Starlight Project, the Pressure Modulated Infrared Radiometer instrument and the reflight of the Drop Physics Module, a microgravity experiment on NASA's space shuttle. In addition, he served as integration and test manager for the Wide-Field and Planetary Camera 2 instrument for the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. Gallagher was manager of JPL's Advanced Optical Systems Program and Deputy Director for Astronomy and Physics before his most recent appointment.

Gallagher and his wife, Kathy, reside in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., where they raised three children.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

News Media Contact

Jane Platt 818-354-0880
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.