Personnel News: March 2016 Archives

Ken Souza

Keith's note: I was deeply saddened to learn that my long time friend Ken Souza died suddenly yesterday. Ken was probably the first NASA life scientist I got to know when I started with NASA in the mid-1980s. Ken worked on just about every imaginable type of life science mission one could imagine and just had so much information in his head. I wondered how he had managed to know so many things. Over the years, as a mentor and a friend, he would impart a lot of technical knowledge, advice - and always, humor. During times when NASA seemed to want to walk away from space biology he kept it alive at NASA Ames. Ken was relentless in terms of his energy and never seemed to rest - even after he had technically retired from NASA. In fact the retirement designation in 2002 after 35 years at NASA Ames research Center meant that he could just stay equally busy doing more of what he wanted to do without all of the management headaches. A lot of us in the space biology family are a bit numb right now. At the time of his death Ken was engaged in putting together a memorial for his long-time friend and colleague Thora Halstead who had passed away just a few days earlier. Last week I remarked that space botanist Mark Watney from "The Martian" owed his life to Thora Halstead's long legacy at the helm of NASA's space biology program. Let me amend that. Mark Watney owed his Mars farming smarts equally to Thora's program management and Ken's trail blazing hardware. Together they were the first to do so many things in space. Ad astra Ken.

Ken Souza - Rest in Peace among the stars, ASGSR

Bob Ebeling

Challenger Engineer Who Warned Of Shuttle Disaster Dies, NPR

"Bob Ebeling spent a third of his life consumed with guilt about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. But at the end of his life, his family says, he was finally able to find peace. "It was as if he got permission from the world," says his daughter Leslie Ebeling Serna. "He was able to let that part of his life go." Ebeling died Monday at age 89 in Brigham City, Utah, after a long illness, according to his daughter Kathy Ebeling."

Thora Halstead

Keith's note: When I first came to Washington in 1986 I had the extreme pleasure of working with Thora at NASA Headquarters. Thora learned her craft from the very first people to send living things into space and I had the distinct honor of learning about those early days from her. She practically invented space biology. She was always fun to work with and had a soft spot when it came to young people. She was instrumental in the founding of ASGSB - now ASGSR - an organization which had the interests of students deeply embedded in its core mission. When budget cuts threatened many researchers she did her best to keep everyone's work alive and defended their interests like a mother wolverine.

She was quite a pioneer - as a scientist and as a woman working at NASA at a time when few women had a chance to run large programs. If anyone can be called a founder of space biology, it was Thora Halstead. Since the film "The Martian" strove for accuracy - and Mark Watney was a space botanist - then it follows that his thesis advisor's thesis advisor's thesis advisor owed something directly to Thora Halstead's commitment to advancing the careers of space biologists and students everywhere. Ad astra.

"Women Have Always Been NASA Pioneers", Dava Newman and Ellen Stofan

"... One of those pioneers, Dr. Thora Halstead, passed away last week. Thora was a mentor to many, and her work benefited thousands. She's been credited with helping to establish the field of space biology before there was such a discipline, and the mentors of many of today's scientists working in the field can credit Thora with direct mentorship or inspiration. Thora's numerous experiments and more than 40 published papers explored how the cells of living organisms respond to a low-gravity environment. As we move closer to Mars, we see that work in many ways, from the VEGGIE experiment that has produced the first lettuce crop in space, or research to show us how plants communicate within their systems in microgravity. Thora also founded the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB), a 500-plus member society with worldwide scientific community membership (now the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research). The legacy of exchange and collaboration that she began will continue to advance space biology for years to come."

John Newcomb

NASA Langley Engineer and Author John Newcomb Dies

"An engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center during the critical Apollo years and those that successfully landed Viking on Mars, John Foster Newcomb passed away March 10, 2016. In the early heady days of space exploration, Newcomb worked on the Lunar Orbiter Project which placed five Lunar Orbiters around the moon, a mission critical to the success of the Apollo Project. The Lunar Orbiters photographed and mapped the moon, giving researchers insight into the best potential landing sites for the crewed Apollo missions."

Keith's note: John Newcomb and I recently exchanged voicemails about his book but never managed to talk. I wanted to talk to him about his Lunar Orbiter experiences. He spoke at NASA HQ just last week - but NASA does not tell people about these events. Now he is gone. Dammit. I'm glad he was able to write this book and speak to people about it such that we know what it was like to do crazy things that no one has ever done before.

Kavandi Named Glenn Research Center Director, Free Joins Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named former astronaut Janet Kavandi director of the agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Kavandi has been serving as Glenn's deputy director since February 2015. She succeeds Jim Free, who was named deputy associate administrator for technical in the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. The appointments are effective Monday."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Personnel News category from March 2016.

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