Al Seiff Award - Conferences Archive
ALVIN SEIFF MEMORIAL AWARD
presented annually at the International Planetary Probe Workshop
Purpose: To recognize and honor a scientist, engineer, technologist, or mission planner for an outstanding contribution to the understanding of the atmospheres of planets or moons utilizing high speed entry probes.
Background: The lecture will be named after Alvin Seiff as the Alvin Seiff Memorial Award to be presented annually at the International Planetary Probe Workshop.
Alvin Seiff's contributions to the fields of planetary exploration, planetary probe technology, and mentoring a generation of world class planetary scientists and technologists are legendary. His leadership using ballistic ranges and innovative engineering analysis played a key role in determining the aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics of the Apollo entry vehicle that was used several times to return astronauts from the Moon. Shortly after president Kennedy told the nation we were going to put a man on the Moon and bring him back safely within the decade, Al pulled together a group of young people from across the nation to contribute to this goal. Under his leadership at NASA Ames, the center made key contributions defining the aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics of the Apollo Earth return vehicle.
Later in his career, Al pursued his goal of inverting the entry physics "problem" into the "solution" of using the response of an entry probe to determine the structure and composition of an unknown planetary atmosphere. This powerful concept was proven with the Planetary Atmospheric Entry Test (PAET) project, which demonstrated that inversion of the entry physics problem could be done in the Earth's atmosphere.
Al Seiff was the principal investigator on experiments that utilized the approach he pioneered to determine the structure of the atmospheres of Mars, Venus and Jupiter. This was accomplished by the flights of the Viking, Pioneer-Venus, and Galileo entry probes. Al's work on planetary atmospheres is broadly published in both the scientific literature and textbooks. Al is broadly recognized for his contributions, both nationally and internationally. He won the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement three times and was awarded the honor of the Dryden Lectureship by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for his work on planetary atmospheres.
Perhaps as important as his contributions to NASA's goals in science and engineering was the product of his leadership: coaching and mentoring. Scores of young engineers and scientists who worked for and with Al later entered the ranks of world class researchers, leaders and managers for NASA and the Department of Defense, including a center director of Ames, organizational directors, division chiefs and branch chiefs.
Al embodied the best we can expect from a leader, and exemplified the saying "give more than you take from the circle of life." He truly "soared to the stars", literally touching three planets with his experiments. Al gave his best to the international planetary science community. Al passed away in 2000 but his inspiration lives on.
Rationale: The young researchers of today will stand on the shoulders of the giants from the past to discover great things in the future that one can only dream off today. An important element of the International Planetary Probe Workshops is to introduce, motivate and educate young people in the field of scientific studies of planetary atmospheres. It is only by placing today's research activities in the proper historical context, by recognizing, appreciating, and understanding the contributions of our predecessors, and by utilizing the experience and knowledge gained by past generations of explorers that a framework that dictates our path for future explorations can be defined. As solar system explorers we are bound by the achievements of our colleagues, and we are obligated to further this chain of scientific discovery to the next generation.
To celebrate Al Seiff's lifetime of dedication to the engineering, technology, and scientific studies of planetary atmospheres, to provide young researchers who never had the chance to know Al with the opportunity to learn how his work truly influences virtually every aspect of planetary exploration, this award and prize lecture will be named after Alvin Seiff.
Details of Award: The Alvin Seiff Memorial Award will be an annual award presented at the International Planetary Probe Workshop. The recipient will be recognized for his or her substantial contributions to the field of planetary entry and descent science and technology, and will be selected by vote of the International Steering Committee and previous Alvin Seiff Memorial Award winners.
The Alvin Seiff Memorial Award will comprise expenses to attend the International Planetary Probe Workshop, a plaque (or medal) and certificate, and a Prize Lecture to be given during the workshop (either at the banquet or during one of the workshop sessions.)
Prior to the winner giving his or her lecture, a member of the International Steering Committee will give a very short synopsis of Al's contributions to set the tone for the occasion.