Elachi Will Retire from JPL Next Year

Elachi Will Retire from JPL Next Year

Charles Elachi, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), announced today that he will retire in June 2016 after 15 years in that position and a total of 45 years at the Lab.

Often referred to as a NASA field center, JPL instead is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) operated under contract by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  Still, its reputation is as the place where some of NASA’s best loved and renowned spacecraft have been built and operated, including the Mars Curiosity rover currently exploring the Red Planet. 

JPL dates back to the 1950s.  It built the very first satellite successfully launched by the United States (Explorer 1) in 1958 and dozens of planetary exploration spacecraft since then.  Still, the entry, descent, and landing sequence for Curiosity — the 7 Minutes of Terror — when it arrived at Mars in July 2012 is perhaps the best known NASA deep space exploration event in this century.

JPL is involved in many NASA programs, not only deep space exploration.  In an email to JPL employees today announcing his resignation, Elachi cited a list of earth observation missions including OCO-2, GRACE, Jason-1 and -2, and SMAP, as emblematic of the Lab’s accomplishments.

Elachi will become a professor emeritus at Caltech after he retires and said everyone “can be assured that I will continue to proactively advocate and be a spokesman for a strong space and Earth science program.”

A search committee led by Caltech trustee Adm. Bobby Inman has been created to find his successor.

Editor’s Note:  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of Charles’ Director’s Advisory Committee.

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