Comet Scientists Honor Colleagues

The late Claudia Alexander, scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists from the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission are honoring their deceased colleague, Claudia Alexander of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, by naming a feature after her on the mission's target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Alexander, who died in July 2015 at age 56, was the project scientist for the U.S. portion of the mission. Her colleagues have named a gate-like feature on the comet C. Alexander Gate. Another deceased colleague, Angioletta Coradini, formerly of the National Astrophysics Institute of Italy, is being honored as well, with a feature on the other lobe of the comet called A. Coradini Gate.

Alexander earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1985. She earned a doctorate degree in atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1993. Alexander began working at JPL before finishing her doctorate, nearly three decades ago, later becoming the project manager for NASA's Galileo mission in 2000 at the relatively young age of 40.

One of Alexander's passions was inspiring young people. In her spare time, she wrote two children's books on science and mentored young African-American girls. She also wrote "steampunk" science fiction short stories.

A European Space Agency blog post about the dedication is online at:

Tributes to Alexander and a Q&A with her are online at:

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO instrument and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder) developed the Rosetta orbiter's IES and Alice instruments, and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern (Alice).

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:

More information about Rosetta is available at:

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Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California