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Firouz Naderi, NASA official who put rovers on Mars, dies at 77

Firouz Naderi, a NASA official who oversaw the profitable touchdown of two exploration rovers on Mars, a feat that vastly expanded human understanding of the Crimson Planet and made him a hero to fellow Iranian People, died June 9 at 77.

His dying was introduced on his social media pages. Dr. Naderi posted on Fb final month that he had suffered a fall that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Different particulars weren’t instantly out there.

Dr. Naderi, who was skilled as {an electrical} engineer, left his native Iran within the wake of the Islamic revolution of 1979 and was employed later that yr by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

Over practically 4 a long time, he emerged as a linchpin of the laboratory’s missions, significantly the touchdown of the Spirit and Alternative rovers on Mars in 2004, one in every of NASA’s most momentous achievements in current a long time.

“Firouz Naderi was a large,” Invoice Nelson, the NASA administrator and former Democratic senator from Florida, wrote on Twitter after Dr. Naderi’s dying. “He helped to redefine humanity’s data about Mars and reinvigorate our sense of curiosity.”

Dr. Naderi had a wide-ranging profession at NASA and served as director for photo voltaic system exploration earlier than his retirement in 2016. However he was maybe finest identified for his work as head of the Mars exploration program at JPL, a job he held from 2000 to 2005.

The Mars program had beforehand suffered setbacks, together with the loss in 1999 of the $125 million Mars Local weather Orbiter due to an elementary error involving the conversion of non-metric and metric models. One other craft, the Mars Polar Lander, failed later that yr, at a price of $165 million.

“If there may be such a factor as institutional despair,” Dr. Naderi later informed the Houston Chronicle, “we felt it right here at JPL after the 1999 back-to-back failures.”

The successes of the Mars program underneath Dr. Naderi included the Mars Odyssey launched in 2001, a spacecraft that’s nonetheless in use and holds the document, in keeping with NASA, for “longest regularly energetic spacecraft in orbit round a planet apart from Earth.”

The launch of Spirit and Alternative proved much more thrilling. Designed for 90-day missions, the dual rovers outperformed expectations in spectacular style. Spirit lasted greater than six years, and Alternative explored the floor of Mars for practically 15 years.

Collectively they helped scientists collect proof that Mars was as soon as a hotter, wetter planet and will have been an abode of life.

Recalling the feelings of the second when the primary rover landed, Dr. Naderi remarked that “it was the primary time I heard my coronary heart beat.”

Like a lot of his colleagues, he spoke of the rovers as in the event that they had been dwelling issues. He commented that Spirit, throughout its ascent to Mars, was like “a child in a mom’s womb with all of the limbs tightly folded.” When the rover landed, he famous, the limbs would unfold, like these of an toddler within the moments after start. He spoke of the rover in relaxation mode as having a “good night time of sleep.”

The missions had private significance for Dr. Naderi, who noticed himself as a consultant of Iranians and Iranian People at a time when many felt misunderstood, if not vilified, by American society. In his 2002 State of the Union tackle, President George W. Bush had labeled Iran, together with North Korea and Iraq, a part of the “axis of evil.”

“I had this extra self-imposed stress,” Dr. Naderi informed an interviewer on the Caltech Heritage Venture. “I used to be considering if we fail the headlines would say ‘NASA fails once more at Mars and this time underneath a local Iranian program supervisor!’ The pressures that we manufacture and placed on ourselves over and above the true pressures.”

He sought “to point out what’s constructive” about Iranian tradition, he mentioned, and have become a champion of Iranian and Iranian American college students and scientists.

On the Academy Awards in 2017, he joined Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian American who grew to become the primary feminine non-public house traveler, in gathering one of the best foreign-language movie Oscar on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, director of the Iranian drama “The Salesman.”

Farhadi had boycotted the night in protest of the newly elected Trump administration’s restrictions on journey by residents of Iran and different Muslim-majority international locations. The journey ban, Dr. Naderi mentioned, was significantly dangerous to college students in search of to additional their training in america.

Till the tip of his life, Dr. Naderi remained an advocate for human rights in his native nation. His honors included NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, the house company’s highest recognition. When he retired, an asteroid was named in his honor.

“It will likely be going across the Solar for billions of years after I’m gone,” Dr. Naderi remarked.

Firouz Michael Naderi was born in Shiraz, Iran, on March 25, 1946. He described his father as a recipient of inherited wealth who “by no means needed to work until it amused him.”

Dr. Naderi’s dad and mom had been divorced when he was 4. After attending elementary college in Shiraz, he was despatched to a boarding college in Tehran run by Catholic monks.

He determined to pursue college research in america, the place he was to be met in New York by a stepsister who had funds from his father.

“As immigrants sometimes do, I had this overstuffed giant suitcase, schlepping it across the airport,” he recalled. Due to a miscommunication, his stepsister was not there to instantly obtain him, and for every week, till her arrival, he subsisted on sizzling canines bought with the $2 he had.

Dr. Naderi obtained a bachelor’s diploma in electrical engineering from Iowa State College in 1969. He continued his research on the College of Southern California, the place he obtained a grasp’s diploma in 1972 and a PhD in 1976, additionally in electrical engineering.

He returned to Iran, the place he labored with earth-science satellites for the state Distant Sensing Company. When the shah was deposed and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took energy, Dr. Naderi left Iran and by no means went again.

At JPL, he served in positions together with venture supervisor for cellular satellite tv for pc experiments. Earlier than his appointment to the Mars program, he was supervisor of the Origins program, which, amongst different missions, explored the formation of adolescence on Earth and regarded for earthlike planets in different galaxies.

An entire listing of survivors was not instantly out there.

Dr. Naderi was energetic with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian People and different organizations selling Iranian and Iranian American causes.

“When you go away from the Earth into house, and also you look again on the Earth, you see it as a single blue marble,” he mentioned. “You see no borders, no strains, separating folks.”



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