Space Man Saluted

New Zealand space scientist Sir Ian Axford, who worked on American and European space probes, such as the Voyager and Giotto designing robot craft and calculating orbits, has died at his home in Napier, aged 77. He was the director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research for 16 years from 1974, overseeing the successful Giotto space mission to Halley’s Comet in 1986. Axford conducted ground-breaking research in planetary science, comets and solar physics over 50 years and made significant contributions to the fields of plasma and space physics. “His achievements were not only as a researcher, but also as a leader of science organisations,” said Garth Carnaby, president of New Zealand’s science academy, the Royal Society. “Sir Ian was one of New Zealand’s most remarkable scientists and had a distinguished international career”. In 1995, Axford was awarded the prestigious Rutherford Medal, “for his excellent contribution to fundamental research which has led to a deeper understanding of the nature of planetary magnetospheres, comets, interplanetary space, the behaviour of interstellar gas and the origin of cosmic rays.” Born in Dannevirke, January 2, 1933, Sir Ian was educated at Napier Boys’ High, and attended university at Canterbury, Manchester and Cambridge, where he took his PhD in 1960. In recent years Sir Ian took an interest in global warming, arguing that wider use of nuclear energy would be better for the planet than countries such as China, Australia and the USA burning “all the fossil fuel they can lay their hands on, which would double or triple the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere”.

Sir Ian Axford: 2 January 1933 – 13 March 2010

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