Sat 26 Mar 2011 11:23 AM
Charles Elachi
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Charles Elachi

Industry: Science

Company: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Designation: Director

Country: US/Lebanon

If there’s one person who has driven mankind’s thirst for knowledge about the other planets in our solar system, that man is probably Charles Elachi.

NASA’s Deep Space Network, the Mars missions, and the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn; these are all conducted — amongst many other space ventures — by California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is headed up by Lebanon-born Elachi.

Between 1982 and 2000, Elachi was responsible for numerous flight missions, as well as planetary exploration and astrophysics; in 1982, he has even had an asteroid named after him. Elachi’s pioneering work has resulted in three exploration rovers landing on Mars’ surface — marking the first time that a scientific station had been set up on another planet. One of those rovers, Opportunity, is still roaming the planet’s surface today — six years after it first landed.

Under Elachi’s leadership, the JPL has also carried out a robotic spacecraft to study Saturn and its many moons. The Cassini-Huygens probe has carried out flybys of several of Saturn’s natural satellites, include Enceladus, Phoebe and Titan. The Huygens probe landed on Titan — sending 350 vital photos back to Earth in the process.

Elachi retains his ties with the region via a board position of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the King Fahd University of Petrochemicals and Minerals, both in Saudi Arabia. Dr Elachi is also the
chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Lebanese American University.