Renowned scientist helped lead NASA’s Galileo mission
Claudia Alexander, a brilliant, pioneering scientist who helped direct both NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter and the international Rosetta space-exploration project, has died at age 56.
Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where Alexander worked as the U.S. leader on the Rosetta Project, announced her death Thursday. JPL officials said she died Saturday after a long battle with breast cancer.
As word of her passing spread through the science community, tributes poured in.
“Claudia brought a rare combination of skills to her work as a space explorer,” said Charles Elachi, JPL’s director. “Of course, with a doctorate in plasma physics, her technical credentials were solid. But she also had a special understanding of how scientific discovery affects us all, and how our greatest achievements are the result of teamwork.”
An acclaimed scientist who conducted landmark research on the evolution and interior physics of comets, Jupiter and its moons, solar wind and other subjects, Alexander authored or co-authored more than a dozen scientific papers.
The University of Michigan, from which she earned her doctorate, named her its Woman of the Year in 1993.
She was the last project manager for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Galileo mission, in which twin spacecraft launched in 1989 made an unprecedented trip to Jupiter, using the Earth’s and the planet Venus’ gravity to propel themselves there.