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Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Charles Elachi
Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of Advanced Planning and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Photo credit: NASA/JPL. Image left: Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of Advanced Planning and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Photo credit: NASA/JPL.

Charles Elachi is 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 NASA. 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. In addition, he holds several patents in those fields and has authored three textbooks in the field of remote sensing, one of which has been translated into Chinese.

In his 30-year career at JPL, Elachi played a leading 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 80s and 90's, as the Director of Space and Earth Science programs, 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, and flown.

In the mid to late 90s. 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, Elachi was appointed as the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Vice President of Caltech.

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.

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 Watson Lectures.

He was born April 18, 1947 in Lebanon. He received a bachelor of science degree 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. He received master of science and doctorate degrees in electrical sciences from the California Institute of Technology in 1969 and 1971, respectively. He later received a master of business administration from the University of Souther California (1978) and a master of science degree in geology from UCLA (1983).

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.