Press Release

Space scientist, geologist Farouk El-Baz to receive 2018 Inamori Ethics Prize

By SpaceRef Editor
December 11, 2017
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As Apollo 11 descended to the moon’s surface, the NASA scientists responsible for choosing the first lunar landing site was as anxious as the rest of the world.

“All our hearts were pounding,” recalled geologist Farouk El-Baz, a scientist on the site-selection committee. “What if the moon was completely different than we thought? We were not 100 percent sure of all aspects, so there was room for error.”

The capsule touched down July 20, 1969, four miles from the predicted landing point. But the mission—and five Apollo lunar landings that followed—was a rousing success. 

El-Baz was involved in each. He also created and still directs a NASA-recognized “Center of Excellence,” the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, which uses space technology to study the earth and its environment.

For his life’s work, El-Baz will receive the 2018 Inamori Ethics Prize from the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University on Sept. 13-14.

“Dr. El-Baz has shown tremendous ethical leadership throughout his life,” said Inamori Center Director Shannon French, the Inamori Professor in Ethics and a professor in the Department of Philosophy and at the School of Law. “He is truly a national—and international—treasure.”

Based on the analysis of space photographs, his recommendations resulted in the discovery of groundwater resources in Egypt, India, China, Sudan, Sultanate of Oman, United Arab Emirates and Chad.

To honor his research, the Geological Society of America Foundation established two annual awards: The Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research, and The Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award.

The Egyptian-born El-Baz received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and geology from Ain Shams University in Cairo, a master’s and PhD from the University of Missouri (after conducting research at MIT), taught mineralogy at Heidelberg University in Germany and worked in Egypt’s oil industry. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1970.

In 1973, he established and directed the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum of Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He was vice president for Science and Technology at Itek Optical Systems from 1982 until he joined Boston University in 1986.

El-Baz is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering, the Committee for Geological Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and serves on several boards.

SpaceRef staff editor.