Press Release

Space Research Director Kenneth Souza to Retire from NASA Ames

By SpaceRef Editor
February 26, 2002
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On March 1, Kenneth A. Souza, acting director of the Astrobiology and
Space Research Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center, will retire
after more than 35 years of government service.

During his NASA career, Souza managed many of the nation’s most
important space and gravitational biology flight research programs.
He led teams of scientists and engineers who developed and flew more
than 400 life sciences experiments in space. He also pioneered
successful collaborations with scientists in the former Soviet Union
at the height of the Cold War. It was under Souza’s direction that
the research for many high-profile NASA experiments in gravitational
and space biology was initiated and undertaken. Much of what
scientists now know about the effects of space flight on living
systems was learned in experiments that were conducted under his
tutelage.

“Ken Souza has been an amazing asset to NASA and Ames Research
Center, both as a scientific researcher and as a leader and manager
in his field,” said Ames Center Director Henry McDonald. “His
scientific credentials, management skills and leadership are
exemplary. His contributions to the fields of space and gravitational
biology have been immense. His retirement leaves big shoes to fill;
he will be greatly missed.”

“Ken brought a vision and passion for his work in space research that
was remarkable. His commitment and in-depth knowledge epitomized
excellence,” said Dr. Kathy Olsen, acting Associate Administrator for
NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research

Souza was appointed acting director of Ames’ Astrobiology and Space
Research Directorate in 2001 after two years as its deputy director.
He provided oversight for all hardware projects in the directorate,
including the Space Station Biological Research Project, the
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), life
science payloads for the space shuttle, Russian space station Mir and
the International Space Station, and the recently approved Kepler
project.

Souza began his career at Ames in 1966 as a research scientist after
graduating with a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from the
University of California, Berkeley. His first job was the search for
life in extreme environments, part of the field now known as
astrobiology. After only a few months, he was invited to help with an
experiment examining the effects of gravity on amphibian embryos.

Frog embryos were flown on Gemini 11 in November 1996, followed a
month later by the launch of Biosatellite I with an extensive
biological payload, including frog embryos. In 1967, the payload flew
again on Biosatellite II. These Ames-managed biosatellites proved
that fundamental biological processes, cell division, metabolism,
growth and development, and radiation repair occurred with minimal
changes during several days of orbital space flight.

Souza next was chosen to manage a new, mutually beneficial
collaboration with the Soviets on the Cosmos series of biosatellites.
“Our scientists were able to provide Soviet scientists with
information about what was happening in a particular science
discipline and show them some new techniques – all of which were
readily available outside the Iron Curtain,” Souza explained. “In
return, we not only benefited from their spaceflight experience, but
we got access to flight opportunities and specimens that would have
cost us tens of millions of dollars.” The collaboration was so
successful that it was one of the very few US/Russian collaborations
allowed to continue throughout the 1980s. These biosatellites
provided the foundation for subsequent experiments on the space
shuttle’s international life sciences Spacelab missions.

He earned a master’s degree in microbiology from San Jose State
University, and in 1981, Souza became deputy chief of Ames’
Biomedical Research Division. From 1986 to 1994, Souza served as
chief of Ames’ Space Life Sciences Payloads Office, where he led the
development of nearly all of NASA’s biological spaceflight
experiments and hardware.

Souza served as principal investigator for a frog embryology
experiment on a 1992 space shuttle mission. This experiment picked up
where the early biosatellite experiments had ended. The frog eggs
were fertilized in space, thereby exposing the process of
fertilization and the gravity-sensitive period of early development
to weightlessness. The experiment demonstrated for the first time
that a vertebrate species could reproduce in the absence of gravity.

As Ames’ associate director for life sciences from 1994 to1996 and as
chief of the Life Sciences Division, Souza provided leadership in the
advancement of flight and ground-based life sciences research and
technology. He led the division in the development and flight of
mid-deck and Spacelab experiments on the space shuttle, including the
completion of Neurolab, the most complex Spacelab mission ever flown.
Working with Dr. Muriel Ross, he helped expand the Ames Center for
Bioinformatics into a joint Ames/Stanford National Center for
Biocomputation, which has provided groundbreaking technologies in
telemedicine and virtual surgery.

Souza has published more than 40 scientific articles and received a
variety of scientific and management awards, including NASA’s
Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1980 and the Outstanding Leadership
Medal in 1991 and 1998. In 1991, he received a scientific
achievement award from the Institute of Biomedical Problems, Ministry
of Health of the USSR.

SpaceRef staff editor.