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Europe honours US Earth science champion

By Eric Van Rees - 29th January 2020 - 07:11

The first spacecraft in the next-generation of a joint US-European satellite mission monitoring global sea level rise will be named after retired NASA scientist Mike Freilich, in honour of his decades-long championing of Earth science.

The European partners of the Copernicus Sentinel-6 high-precision altimetry mission – the European Commission, the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT – proposed the rare honour, which became official at a renaming ceremony in Washington today.

The spacecraft, the Sentinel-6 “Michael Freilich”, to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in November, was formerly known Jason-Continuity of Service A (Jason-CS A).

“We all wished to communicate the value and resilience of our transatlantic cooperation and pay tribute to the unique personality of Mike Freilich,” EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier, who has known Freilich since they were both working as ocean scientists in 1985, said.

“Mike’s commitment to Earth system science with no borders and to cooperation is unrivalled. We in Europe are delighted to honour a true American who is also a citizen of the world.”

The collaborative Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission will extend the unique climate record initiated in 1992 by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission (1992-2006) and continued by Jason (2001-2013), Jason-2 (2008-2019) and Jason-3, launched in 2016.

NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partners in the mission with the European agencies.

NOAA Satellite and Information Service Assistant Administrator Stephen Volz said his NOAA colleagues enthusiastically supported renaming Sentinel 6A/Jason-CS A after Freilich.

Read More: Satellite Imaging Aerospace Education & Research

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