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Naval Research Laboratory Space Scientist Honored

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2013 – Naval Research Laboratory scientist George Carruthers received the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation in a Feb. 1 ceremony at the White House.

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George Carruthers, left, and William Conway, a project manager at the Naval Research Institute, examine the gold-plated Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph, which housed the first observatory operated by man from a fixed platform outside the Earth. Apollo 16 astronauts placed the camera, invented by Carruthers, on the moon in April 1972. U.S. Naval Research Laboratory photo

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The award is the nation's highest honor for technology achievement, and is presented by the president to America's leading innovators, officials said.

Carruthers’ geospace research is improving the ability to understand and forecast space weather, which can affect military and civilian space and communication systems.

"I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators. They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great -- and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment," President Barack Obama said in announcing the medal recipients.

Carruthers, who works in NRL’s space science division, grew up during the space race. His love for space science extended through his youth and eventually led him to pursue degrees in aeronautical, nuclear, and astronomical engineering from the University of Illinois.

“If there is one idea that sets this country apart, one idea that makes us different from every other nation on Earth, it’s that here in America, success does not depend on where you were born or what your last name is,” Obama said during the ceremony.

“Success depends on the ideas that you can dream up, the possibilities that you envision, and the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to make them real,” the president added.

Carruthers began work at NRL in 1964, after receiving a fellowship in rocket astronomy from the National Science Foundation. Throughout his tenure, he has focused his attention on far ultraviolet observations of the Earth's upper atmosphere and of astronomical phenomena.

In 1969, Carruthers received a patent for his pioneering instrumentation, Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation Especially in Short Wave Lengths, which detected electromagnetic radiation.

In 1972, his Far Ultraviolet Camera Spectrograph, the first moon-based space observatory, was sent to the moon with the Apollo 16 mission. This 50-pound, gold-plated camera system allowed researchers to take readings of and understand objects and elements in space that are unrecognizable to the naked eye. It also gave scientists views of stars and solar systems thousands of miles away.

His camera still sits on the surface of the moon. A second version was sent on the 1974 Skylab space flight and was used to observe Halley's Comet, among others.

Carruthers has been the principal investigator for numerous Defense Department and NASA-sponsored space instruments, including a 1986 rocket instrument that obtained ultraviolet images of Halley’s Comet. His experiment on the Defense Department’s Space Test Program Advanced Research and Global Observation Satellite captured an image of a Leonid shower meteor entering the Earth's atmosphere, the first time an image of a meteor has been captured in the far ultraviolet from a space-borne camera.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation's technological workforce. Nominees are selected by an independent committee representing the private and public sectors.


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Related Sites:
Naval Research Laboratory
Remarks by the President at Ceremony for the 2011 National Medals of Science, and National Medals of Technology and Innovation

Click photo for screen-resolution image130201-O-ZZ999-001 Astronaut John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the U.S. flag at the Descartes landing site during an Apollo 16 extravehicular activity, April 21, 1972. The lunar module "Orion" is on the left. The lunar roving vehicle is parked beside Orion, and the object behind Young in the shadow of the lunar module is the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph. NASA photo by Charles Duke Jr.   
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