Remembering Firouz Naderi

PAAIA Mourns the Loss of Former Vice Chair & Board Member Dr. Firouz Naderi

We are saddened to share that Dr. Firouz Naderi, Former PAAIA Vice Chair and Board Member, passed away on Friday, June 9th, 2023, at the age of 77.  We extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and all who knew him.

Born in Shiraz, Iran, Dr. Naderi came to the United States for college in 1964.  He received his undergraduate degree at Iowa State University and his master’s and PhD at the University of Southern California, all in electrical engineering.  He returned to Iran for three years to work for the Iranian Remote Sensing Agency but left after the revolution in 1979.

Since then, he worked in various technical and executive positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), including as the Director of Solar System Exploration where he was in charge of the many programs and projects that pushed our understanding of our galaxy. 

During his career at JPL, Dr. Naderi worked on cellular communications satellites, radar measurement technology, remote sensing observatories, robotic space missions to planets and moons, and much more. From 1996-2000, he managed the Origins Program in its search for Earth-like planets. This led him to his role as head of the Mars Exploration Program (2000-2005) where he launched six successful Mars landings, including the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. He also led the launch of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft that is still in orbit today.

In 2005, Dr. Naderi was named Associate Director of the Project Formulation and Strategy which was followed by his final position as Director for Solar System Exploration. In this role, he sent robotic missions to Jupiter, Saturn, asteroids, and Europa, and led the formation of the first-ever Mars helicopter. 

He received numerous awards for his work including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal, Space Technology Hall of Fame Medal, and NASA’s most prestigious award: the Distinguished Service Medal. Upon his retirement in 2016, the International Astronomical Union even renamed an asteroid after him. 

Dr. Naderi was a great boon to the scientific community but also a pivotal figure in the Iranian American community. He served on PAAIA’s Board for numerous years, many of which he dedicated to the position of Vice Chair. His leadership provided fundamental support for both PAAIA and the Iranian American community. Dr. Naderi also served on the boards of the Iranica Encyclopaedia, Keep Children in School Foundation, and the International Society of Children with Cancer.

Because of his deep commitment to Iranian American youth, Dr. Naderi mentored thousands of Iranian Americans and young scientists during his lifetime. He also helped establish PAAIA’s Pass the Torch program. Along with his many scientific awards, Naderi also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2003 and the “Great Immigrants: The Pride of America” award by Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2015. 

Dr. Naderi will be deeply missed. PAAIA mourns his loss and extends our condolences to family, friends, and those he inspired around the world. 

Click here to view a commemoration video we put together featuring some of Dr. Naderi’s mentees as they share the immense impact he had on their lives.

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