Claudia Alexander—Space Scientist (1959-2015)
Claudia Alexander was perhaps not well-known to the general public, but within the space and science community she was a valued colleague and friend whose contribution to the field of space exploration was significant and lasting. Charles Elachi, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she worked said she, “had a special understanding of how scientific discovery affects us all and how our greatest achievements are the result of teamwork, which came easily to her.” She was the last project manager for the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, project manager for the U.S. involvement in the Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and a member of the Cassini Science Team.She authored or co-authored 14 scientific papers (and also wrote science fiction and children’s books on the side). Her work spanned the fields of planetary science, plasma physics, comet science, and geophysics. But beyond these efforts, she also worked to encourage and support STEM education programs and established a scholarship program at the University of Michigan. Born in Canada, she was raised in California. Early on she was motivated by President Kennedy’s call to accomplish goals, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” She loved her profession and transmitted her enthusiasm and excitement to all her colleagues. It is clear from their many tributes that her legacy lives on, not just in the knowledge gained from her research and mission work, but in the hearts of all those she inspired.