Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pioneer - David S. McKay, 76

Accolades continue to pour in following the loss
of renowned planetary scientist David S. McKay.
For the following, a hat tip to Clive Neal of
Notre Dame University.
Leonard David

David S. McKay, a pioneering NASA scientist in moon and Mars research, astrobiology and space resource utilization, has died, leaving a legacy of work that will continue to shape the future of space exploration. He was 76.

McKay, who served as chief scientist for astrobiology at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston,died peacefully in his sleep on Feb. 20 after battling serious health issues for several years.

As a graduate student, McKay was in the audience at Rice University in September 1962 when President John F. Kennedy gave his legendary "We choose to go to the moon" speech that put America solidly on a lunar trajectory.

McKay joined NASA in June of 1965 and was a key lunar scientist of the Apollo era, participating extensively in astronaut training leading up to 1969's historic Apollo 11 mission with field trips to Hawaii, Alaska, Iceland, Mexico and many sites in the western U.S. He also was instrumental in the geology training of Apollo 11 moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

The media spotlight shone more brightly on McKay after the Apollo era, primarily because of his work on the "Allan Hills" Mars meteorite, also known as ALH84001.

McKay was lead author of a 1996 paper in the journal Science that suggested ALH84001 may contain evidence of past life on Mars. The claim still spurs controversy, but it also sparked a shift in perspectives that is alive and well within NASA today.

"Whether one accepts their arguments or not, it has led, directly or indirectly, to investigations seeking and finding signs of life in the most extreme environments. History will judge the value of that rather serendipitous outcome, but it seems clear that its significance is, and will remain, great," said David Draper, manager of the Astromaterials Research Office at Johnson Space Center.

Read the full article, HERE.

No comments: