Renowned sci­en­tist helped lead NASA’s Galileo mis­sion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES -

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.

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