NASA scientist Claudia Alexander dies
The UCLA alumna was also a prolific author of scientific papers, children's science-learning books and science-fiction short stories.
Breast cancer claims Dr. Claudia Alexander, groundbreaking NASA space research scientist and project manager of the 14-year $1.5 billion Galileo mission to Jupiter, project scientist for Rosetta Project
Alexander, who was 56 years old, was the last project manager of the 14-year $1.5 billion Galileo mission to Jupiter, which ended in 2003. After that, she held the position of NASA’s project scientist on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Project, which launched in March 2004. That position rendered her responsible for $35 million worth of project instruments that collected vital data on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimendo.
According to her bio, Claudia Alexander’s areas of expertise included the evolution and physics of comets, Jupiter and its moons, Venus, plate tectonics and the stream of particles from the sun known as solar wind.
Alexander was also a prolific writer, having authored more than a dozen scientific papers, several children’s books, and an assortment of science fiction tomes for fun and relaxation.
Alexander was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and raised in Santa Clara, Calif. She received her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, earned her master’s degree at UCLA, and obtained her Ph.D. in space plasma physics from the University of Michigan.
Being comfortable with the news media as well as with outer space, Alexander explained to the U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine that “NASA chose me deliberately for my ability to get along with different cultures.”
Last year, she expressed her feelings about being a Black woman in a field dominated by White men, saying, “I’m used to walking between two different cultures.” And in an interview with Michigan Engineer magazine, she directed her comments to young people and informed them that “loving your work can sometimes be as important as how much money you make.”