TULLAHOMA, Tenn. – Plotting the trajectory for NASA’s exploration of the outer planets in the solar system won the space agency’s exceptional achievement medal for a University of Tennessee Space Institute professor.
Dr. Gary Flandro will receive the award June 30 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for his work on the two Voyager missions. He holds UTSI’s Edward and Carolyn Boling Chair of Excellence in Space Propulsion.
Dr. Wesley Huntress, NASA associate administrator, will present the medal.
As a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in 1965, Flandro mapped a path for spacecraft to reach the solar system’s outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Jupiter, the next planet beyond Mars, is some 370 million miles from Earth.
Flandro found that a rare alignment of the planets would slingshot a spacecraft from one planet to the next. The alignment occurs only every 176 years, and the next time it would happen would be in the late 1970s, he said.
“If a spacecraft could be designed, built and launched by that time, it could take what I referred to as the ‘grand tour’ of the planets.”
The Voyager crafts were launched in the summer of 1977. Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn, leaving Saturn’s moon, Titan, in 1980. Voyager 2 passed Neptune, outer most planet in the solar system in 1989, 12 years after launch.
Contact: Gary Flandro (931-455-0631- ex 217)