JPL Director Charles Elachi.
JPL Director Charles Elachi

Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a vice president of the California Institute of Technology, has been named one of the winners of this year's Takeda Awards for his work in developing spaceborne radar instruments to monitor the global environment.

The awards, established last year by the Takeda Foundation of Japan, honor individuals who demonstrate outstanding achievements in the creation and application of new engineering knowledge to benefit human needs.

Elachi, an expert in imaging radar and other remote-sensing technologies, shares his prize for work benefiting the environment with two Japanese researchers, Nobuyoshi Fugono of Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Kyoto, and Ken'ichi Okamoto of Osaka Prefecture University. The Takeda Foundation also announced two other awards honoring researchers working in electronics and life sciences.

Born in Lebanon, Elachi joined JPL in 1971 after graduating from Caltech. He served in a variety of research and management positions before being named the Laboratory's director in 2001. As a researcher he is perhaps best known for his role in the development of a series of imaging radar systems for the Space Shuttle that allow scientists to penetrate clouds and even the top layers of soil in arid regions, offering scientifically fruitful hints of what lies underneath.

The author of more than 200 publications on space and planetary exploration, Elachi has served as principal investigator on numerous NASA projects and is currently team leader of the Titan radar experiment on the Cassini mission to Saturn.

In 1988, the Los Angeles Times selected him as one of "Southern California's rising stars who will make a difference in L.A." In 1989, Asteroid 1982 SU was renamed 4116 Elachi in recognition of his contribution to planetary exploration. The same year, at the age of 42, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

He has participated in a number of archaeological expeditions in the Egyptian Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, and the western Chinese desert in search of old trading routes and buried cities using satellite data.

Elachi will receive half of a monetary award of 100 million yen (approximately U.S. $833,000); the other half will be shared by his Japanese co-honorees. The awards will be presented at a ceremony November 20 in Tokyo.

The Takeda Foundation was established in 2001 by Ikuo Takeda, founder of instrument manufacturer Advantest Corp. The awards announced today are the second annual prizes given by the foundation. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

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