May 22, 2010

MESSENGER Thermal Engineer and Co-Investigator Receive Honors

Two members of the MESSENGER team have been honored by their peers. Carl Jack Ercol, the man largely responsible for ensuring that MESSENGER can withstand solar radiation up to 11 times greater than at Earth as it orbits the planet closest to the Sun, has received the 2008 SAE Arch T. Colwell Merit Award. Independently, MESSENGER Co-Investigator James W. Head, III, was awarded the Runcorn-Florensky Medal by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) at their General Assembly earlier this month.

SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries, annually recognizes authors of papers of outstanding technical or professional merit presented at a meeting of the society during the calendar year. Papers are judged primarily for their value as new contributions to existing knowledge of mobility engineering.

Ercol, MESSENGER's thermal engineer, received the Colwell award in recognition of, "Return to Mercury: An overview of the MESSENGER spacecraft thermal control system design and up to date flight performance." To read more about Ercol, see

The Runcorn-Florensky medal "“ established by the EGU's Division on Planetary and Solar System Sciences in recognition of the scientific achievements of Keith Runcorn and Cyril Florensky "“ is intended to honor scientists who've made exceptional contributions to planetology.

Head, a professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University, was cited for his work on volcanism and tectonism in the formation and evolution of planetary crusts and for developing a series of remarkable U.S.-European research collaborations in Earth and planetary science. To read more about the work for which he was honored, see

"The entire MESSENGER team is delighted that our two colleagues have been recognized for their outstanding contributions," offers MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "That MESSENGER has survived nearly six years in an orbit that takes it as close to the Sun as Mercury's perihelion distance is in no small part the result of the thorough analysis and creative solutions that Jack brought to the thermal design of our spacecraft. Jim's deep knowledge of the geology of the inner planets has been critical to the analysis of MESSENGER's observations of Mercury, and there is no one in the planetary geology community who has done more than Jim to further cooperation in scientific space exploration between the U.S. and both eastern and western Europe."


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