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Committee on Space Research Honors NASA's Neil Gehrels for Science Contributions
Photo of Neil Gehrels

NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Neil Gehrels of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will be awarded the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Harrie Massey Award in July, 2012. Credit: NASA

The Committee on Space Research recently announced an award to NASA Astrophysicist Neil Gehrels for research in space science.

Neil is being awarded the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Harrie Massey Award, honoring the memory of Sir Harrie Massey, for outstanding contributions to the development of space research in which a leadership role is of particular importance.

Gehrels, Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is being honored for his pioneering contributions to gamma ray astronomy.

"I am delighted to win the Massey award," Neil said. "Swift, Fermi and CGRO all have excellent science and engineering teams which make them successful. The observatories are also all international collaborations following the COSPAR objective of cooperation between nations involved in space research."

Gehrels serves as principal investigator of NASA’s Swift mission, and deputy project scientist of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope satellite. Since its launch on November 20, 2004, Swift has greatly advanced astronomers’ understanding of stupendously powerful stellar explosions known as gamma-ray bursts. Fermi launched in June 2008, and has already discovered more than two dozen new pulsars. During the 1990s, Gehrels served as the Project Scientist for the Compton Observatory which was the second of NASA’s four Great Observatories and pioneered observations of the gamma-ray sky.

Gehrels earned his Ph.D. in physics from Caltech in 1981, and came to Goddard as a postdoctoral researcher in the same year. Among his many other honors, Gehrels and his Swift Science Team won the 2007 Rossi Prize from the American Astronomical Society’s High-Energy Astrophysics Division. He is also the 2005 recipient of Goddard’s John C. Lindsay Memorial Award for Space Science. Gehrels was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2008. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and an Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at the University of Maryland and of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University. Gehrels was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2008 and National Academy of Sciences in 2011.

COSPAR's objectives are to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research. These objectives are achieved through the organization of Scientific Assemblies, publications and other means.

The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) has both National Scientific Institutions and International Scientific Unions as members. Forty-six National Scientific Institutions engaged in space research and thirteen International Scientific Unions adhering to the International Council for Science (ICSU) belong to COSPAR. Moreover, approximately 8000 scientists actively engaged in space research are COSPAR Associates.

The award will be distributed at COSPAR's forthcoming Scientific Assembly in Mysore, India, July 14-22, 2012. Gehrels resides in Berwyn Heights, Md.

For information about COSPAR, visit:

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Rob Gutro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.