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Nick Panagakos

Public Affairs, NASA

Nick Panagakos began his NASA career in 1962 and for eight years was the principal information officer for the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. He transferred to NASA Headquarters and was appointed public affairs officer for space science in 1971, the position he held until his death from a heart attack in 1980.

An expert science writer, Panagakos helped shape many of the policies and methods of presenting scientific information before a mission and the resulting discoveries as the missions unfolded. He was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal twice: once for his work during the Viking explorations of Mars and in reporting activities associated with the Voyager encounter with Jupiter and Pioneer probes to Venus.

He was responsible for all of the public affairs activities associated with the Viking project that landed two spacecraft on the surface of Mars and was cited in his award for “exceptional performance in planning and directing Viking public affairs activities from inception to completion thus making Viking one of the most thoroughly reported and enthusiastically received space missions in the history of space flight.”

Panagakos was a frequent contributor to the news room activities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during planetary missions and a responsive source at NASA Headquarters for information on all aspects of science activities.

Born in Portland, Maine, Panagakos graduated from Harvard University and earned a master’s degree at Boston University. From 1960-61, he was a Sloan-Rockefeller Fellow in Advanced Science Writing at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism. Prior to joining NASA he worked for Gannett newspapers, was science editor for the Boston Herald and a documentary science writer for MGM in New York. During the 1968 presidential campaign, he took a leave of absence from NASA to be a speech writer for Senator Edmund Muskie, D-Maine, who was the vice presidential candidate.