September 6, 2011
Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will be awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor on Monday, Sept. 5th in Los Angeles.
Dr. Elachi dedicated more than for decades of his brilliant career to space science and academia.
Born and raised in Lebanon, he later joined the prestigious Polytechnic Institute in Grenoble, where he completed a Bachelor’s degree in physics, then an Engineering degree.
Dr. Elachi started his career at the Caltech and the JPL, where he soon became an expert in space-based radar technology, which led him to serve as a respected professor at Caltech, institution of which he was appointed vice president in 2001.
All along his different positions at JPL, Dr. Elachi teamed up with French scientists from National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the National Research Center (CNRS). As head of the earth science instruments department, he contributed to the development of one of the greatest programs for observation and study of the oceans: Topex Poseidon and the Jason satellite family. This joint French-US led to the discovery of the El Niño phenomenon in the South Pacific, a key to understanding the climate of our planet.
More recently, Dr. Elachi promoted breakthrough cooperation programs between the United State and France or Europe: Cassini Huygens’ orbit around Saturn and landing on Titan, Mars Express’s orbit around the Red Planet, and the very ambitious Mars Science Laboratory that will be launched by the end of the year and will be looking for some proof of life on Mars.
France is proud to honor a visionary scientist, an exceptional team player and a true friend.