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Dr. Firouz Naderi has spent most of the last decade managing NASA programs in pursuit of a most fundamental question – are we alone in the universe? The contribution our civilization makes to answer this question, he says, will be the legacy for which we will be remembered even centuries from now after transient issues of today are long forgotten.
Dr. Naderi is currently the associate director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory responsible for project formulation and strategy.
Before his current assignment he was the head of the Mars Exploration Program, having been named to that position in 2000 after the program had suffered two consecutive failures. Naderi led the program for the next five years, 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. This continuing program has the goal of determining if Mars is, or if it ever was, a habitat for life.
Before Mars, he managed the Origins Program, NASA’s ambitious, technology-rich plan to search for Earth-like planets in other planetary systems. Born in Shiraz, Iran, 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) and has been with JPL for 29 years.
Dr. Naderi is an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 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 a 2005 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for outstanding contributions that have enriched American society and exemplify its cultural diversity. Past winners of this award have included President Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope and other notables. Naderi is also the 2004 winner of the Liberal Prize awarded by an Italian foundation to an international personality who has “contributed to changes in ideas in modern times.” Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, received this same award two years earlier.