Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of JPL
Elachi was born April 18, 1947 in Lebanon. He received a B.S. in physics
from the University of Grenoble, France and the Diplome Ingenieur in engineering
from the Polytechnic Institute, Grenoble in 1968 where he graduated first
in the class, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical sciences from the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena in 1969 and 1971, respectively.
He later received an MBA from USC (1978) and an M.S. degree in geology
from UCLA (1983).
He is currently the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Vice President of the California Institute of Technology, where he is also a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Planetary Science. He taught "The Physics of Remote Sensing" at Caltech from 1982 to 2000.
Elachi was Principal Investigator on numerous research and
development studies and flight projects sponsored by the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration. He was Principal Investigator for the Shuttle
Imaging Radar series (SIR-A in 1981, SIR-B in 1984 and SIR-C in 1994),
was a Co-Investigator on the Magellan imaging radar, and is presently
the Team Leader of the Cassini Titan Radar experiment and a co-investigator
on the Rosetta Comet Nucleus Sounder Experiment. He is the author of over 230 publications in the fields
of space and planetary exploration, Earth observation from space, active
microwave remote sensing, electromagnetic theory, and integrated optics,
and he holds several patents in those fields. In addition, he has authored
three textbooks in the field of remote sensing. One of these textbooks
has been translated into Chinese.
In his 30 year career at JPL, Dr. Elachi played the lead role in developing
the field of spaceborne imaging radar from a small research area to a
major field of scientific research and application. As a result, JPL and
NASA became the world leaders in the field of spaceborne imaging radars,
and over the last decade, developed Seasat, SIR-A, SIR-B, SIR-C, Magellan,
SRTM and the Cassini Radar. He received numerous national and international
awards for his leadership in this field.
During the late 80's and 90's, as the Director of Space and Earth Science
programs, Dr. Elachi was responsible for the definition and development
of JPL flight instruments and missions for Solar System Exploration, the
Origins program, Earth Observation and Astrophysics. During this period
more than 45 flight missions and instruments were conceived, developed,
In the mid to late 90s. Dr. Elachi chaired a number of national and international
committees which developed NASA roadmaps for the exploration of neighboring
Solar Systems (1995), our Solar System (1997), and Mars (1998).
In January 2001, Dr. Elachi was appointed as the Director of the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory and Vice President of Caltech.
Dr. Elachi has received numerous awards, including the Takeda Award (2002),
the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (2002), the Wernher Von Braun Award
(2002), the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Science Distinguished Alumni
Award (2002), Dryden Award (2000,), the NASA Distinguished Service Medal
(1999), the COSPAR Nordberg Medal (1996), the Nevada Medal (1995), NASA
Outstanding Leadership Medal (1994), the IEEE Medal of Engineering Excellence
(1992), the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Distin- guished Achievement
Award (1987), the W.T. Pecora Award (1985), the NASA Exceptional Scientific
Medal (1982), and the ASP Autometric Award (1980 and 1982).
In 1988, the L.A. Times selected him as one of "Southern California's
rising stars who will make a difference in L.A."
In 1989, Asteroid 1982 SU was renamed 4116 Elachi in recognition of his
contribution to planetary exploration.
In 1989, at the age of 42, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
In 1993-1995 he was a member of the NAE 4th Decadal Committee. In 1995,
he chaired the NAE membership committee. He served on numerous NAE committees.
He is a fellow of IEEE and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
and is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.
He was a member of the University of Arizona Engineering School Advisory
Committee and the Boston University Center of Remote Sensing Advisory
Council. He is a member of the UCLA Science Board of Visitors.
Dr. Elachi participated in a number of archeological expeditions in the
Egyptian Desert, the Arabian Peninsula and Western Chinese Desert in search
of old trading routes and buried cities using satellite data, some of
which were featured in National Geographic Magazine.
He has lectured and given keynote speeches at numerous international conferences
and universities inside and outside the U.S., including China, Japan,
Australia, France, England, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Norway,
Germany, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Kenya, India, Morocco, and Brazil. He also
was a speaker at the Caltech Alumni Day and the Watson Lectures.
He is married to Valerie Gifford and has two daughters, Joanna and
Lauren. His outside interests include skiing, woodworking, history and travel. He is a member of the Pasadena Twilight
Club and chaired the JPL United Way Campaign in 1988-1989.