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Dr. William H. Pickering, former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, will on Thursday become the first recipient of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Prize.

The prize, to be awarded in a ceremony at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, honors an engineering graduate of the university who died while piloting a helicopter rescue mission in Africa in 1986. It includes an honorarium of $250,000.

The prize is being given by the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud, an organization based in Switzerland and France which supports aerospace science and education, humanitarian assistance, and community life in Valais, Switzerland.

An international committee of scientists and aerospace executives selected Pickering as the first recipient.

Pickering, JPL director from 1954 to 1976, developed technologies that evolved into spacecraft communications and led the efforts to create and operate the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1.

The NASA scientific spacecraft missions such as the Rangers to the Moon, Mariners to Venus and Mars, Viking to Mars and Voyager to the outer planets were designed and begun under his leadership.

Pickering lives in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., and is in business in Pasadena, Calif.

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