Donald J. Kessler
Donald J. Kessler
|Alma mater||University of Houston|
|Known for||Kessler Syndrome|
|Awards||AIAA Losey Atmospheric Sciences Award (2000)|
IAASS Jerome Lederer Space Safety Pioneer Award (2008)
AAS Dirk Brouwer Award (2010)
|Fields||Senior Scientist for Orbital Debris Research|
Early life and education
Kessler grew up in Texas. He served in the US Army in the Air Defense Command. He attended the University of Houston beginning in 1962 and studied physics. He began working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) before graduating from college.
Kessler was a flight controller for Skylab, the US space station launched by NASA on November 11th, 1973.
Kessler worked at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as part of NASA's Environmental Effects Project Office. While there, he developed what is now known as the Kessler syndrome, which posits that collisions between space debris become increasingly likely as the density of space debris increases in orbit around the earth, and a cascade effect results as each collision in turn creates more debris that can cause further collisions. Kessler first published his ideas in 1978, in an academic paper titled "Collision Frequency of Artificial Satellites: The Creation of a Debris Belt." The paper established Kessler's reputation, and NASA subsequently made him the head of the newly created Orbital Debris Program Office to study the issue and establish guidelines to slow the accumulation of space debris.
Kessler retired from NASA in 1996, and has maintained a website with his publications and contact information. He currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. He continues to be active in the field of orbital debris. In 2009, he gave an address to the first International Conference on Orbital Debris Removal in Arlington, Virginia, co-sponsored by NASA and DARPA. In 2011, he was a key adviser in the making of the educational IMAX film Space Junk 3D and also served as chairman of a United States National Research Council committee to assess NASA's orbital debris programs. In 2013, he gave a special lecture in Tokyo to the Second International Symposium on Sustainable Space Development and Utilization for Humankind, sponsored by the Japan Space Forum, and in 2017 gave the keynote address at the 7th European Conference on Space Debris.
Awards and honors
- Kessler has received numerous awards for his pioneering work, the most recent being the 2010 Dirk Brower Award for his half-century career in astrodynamics.
- The central main-belt asteroid 11267 Donaldkessler, discovered by American astronomer Schelte Bus at the Californian Palomar Observatory in 1981, was named in his honor on 13 April 2017 (M.P.C. 103977).
- "Don Kessler". International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety. 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- "11267 Donaldkessler (1981 UE28)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Khatchadourian, Raffi. "The Elusive Peril of Space Junk". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2020-10-11.
- Schwartz, Evan I., "Waste MGMT", Wired, 18 (6): 172–180.
- Donald J. Kessler and Burton G. Cour-Palais (1978). "Collision Frequency of Artificial Satellites: The Creation of a Debris Belt". Journal of Geophysical Research. 83: 2637–2646. Bibcode:1978JGR....83.2637K. doi:10.1029/JA083iA06p02637.
- Video of address
- "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Broad, William J. (May 17, 1994), "Fragmenting Space Debris Could Put Satellites at Risk", The New York Times.
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