Washington D.C., March 30, 2016 – On March 28, 2016 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) renamed an asteroid, formerly known as (5515) 1989 EL1, ‘Naderi’ after Firouz Michael Naderi, Iranian-American scientist and PAAIA Board Member.
Dr. Naderi communicated his surprise at hearing the extraordinary news through a Facebook post: “Tonight at NASA/JPL farewell party I learned that they have named an asteroid after me! I was overwhelmed.” He then explained that Asteroid “Naderi” is about 10 km in diameter, orbits the Sun every 4.4 years, completes a full revolution every 5.2 hours, and orbits in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid does not cross Earth, but has ‘an orbit a little more eccentric than most asteroids in the main belt’.
Dr. Naderi explained to PAAIA the process for naming extraterrestrial bodies, writing: “The process follows an international protocol overseen by the IAU which has the mission to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international cooperation. When IAU receives a petition to name an asteroid after a person, the petition is reviewed by the IAU’s Committee for Small Body Naming (CSBN) and if they see merit they will approve. Note neither NASA nor any other space agency of any other country has the power to rename space objects (planets, moons, comets, asteroid, etc.). In my case, the petition was put forward by NASA/JPL and it came as a surprise to me last night.”
Before his recent retirement in February 2016, Dr. Naderi was the director for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Formerly, he was the associate director for Project Formulation and Strategy (2005-2011) providing oversight of new business acquisition and strategic planning at JPL. Prior to that, he was the head of the Mars Exploration Program (2000-2005) a span of time that included the successful launch of Mars Odyssey, landing of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and the development of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Before Mars, he managed the Origins Program (1996-2000) an ambitious, technology-rich plan to search for Earth-like planets in other planetary systems.
Born in Shiraz, Iran, Dr. Naderi moved to the U.S. more than 40 years ago to continue his higher education. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) in electrical engineering. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the recipient of a number of awards, including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal, Space Technology Hall of Fame Medal and NASA’s highest award: the Distinguished Service Medal. He is also a 2005 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor given for outstanding contributions that have enriched American society and exemplify its cultural diversity. He was most recently recognized by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) with the William Randolph Lovelace II Award for outstanding contributions to space science and technology.
PAAIA and IA-100 extend the warmest congratulations for this honor to our esteemed board member, Firouz Naderi, whose passion for protecting and advancing the interests of our community and especially those of our next generation inspires us all.
A commemorative illustration in Renassiance style shows the asteroid ‘Naderi’ in orbit.