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John Casani Honored By Air And Space Museum

April 30, 2009

John Casani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been honored with the National Air and Space Museum’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, the museum’s highest honor, was presented to Casani during an April 29, black tie event at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum building in Washington.

“John was here at the beginning when JPL moved from building rockets to building spacecraft for exploring the planets and deep space,” said JPL Director Charles Elachi. “He helped lay the foundation of how we approach project management and build spacecraft – essentially how our nation would explore space. And when today we send these rovers and other spacecraft on missions across the solar system, we are really standing on the shoulders of giants like John Casani.”

Casani’s work can be found at the farthest reaches of our solar system. He began his career at JPL in the mid-1950s, working on the lab’s Jupiter and Sergeant rocket programs. He went on to become an engineer on the early Pioneer moon missions and led the design team for both the Ranger and Mariner spacecraft. Casani held senior project positions on many of the Mariner missions to Mars and Venus, and in 1970 became project manager of Mariner 6 and Mariner 7. Later, Casani would project-manage NASA’s Voyager mission to the outer planets, Galileo mission to Jupiter, and Cassini mission to Saturn, as well as the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission. Today, Casani is Special Assistant to the Director at JPL.

Casani has been honored with several NASA awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal (NASA’s highest award). He has received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space System Award, the von Karman Lectureship, the National Space Club Astronauts Engineer Award, and the American Astronomical Society’s Space Flight Award. He is a Fellow of the AIAA and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Astronautics Academy. In 1965, the president of Italy awarded Casani the Italian Order of Merit and bestowed on him the title of Commendatore.

John Casani holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and an honorary degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Rome, Italy.

Also honored last night with the Air and Space Museum’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement was NASA test pilot and two-time shuttle astronaut Gordon Fullerton.

Established in 1985, the National Air and Space Museum Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding achievement in scientific or technological endeavors relating to air and space technology and exploration. Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement award include Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong and scientist James Van Allen.

Image Caption: JPL’s John Casani receives the National Air & Space Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Image credit: Carolyn Russo/NASM, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

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