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09/07/2011 07:00:00

Félicitations! JPL Director Charles Elachi Receives Honor From France

The Athenaeum had a certain je ne sais quoi about it last night, but it wasn't a Provence-themed dinner or a champagne tasting event. Charles Elachi, director of JPL, was formally inducted into the French Legion, known in its native tongue as the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. The award, which is the highest decoration of the French Republic, was presented by François Delattre, Ambassador of France to the United States.

"I'm very honored to be recognized with such a prestigious award," says Elachi, who is also vice president of Caltech, and an electrical engineering and planetary science professor here. "The years I spent in France, at the University of Grenoble and the Polytechnic Institute in Grenoble, were an important part of my life and helped pave the way for my career."

The award is traditionally restricted to natives of France, but has been bestowed on foreign nationals "who have served France or the ideals it upholds." Elachi, who was born in Lebanon, earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Grenoble in 1968. That same year he also received an engineering degree from the Polytechnic Institute in Grenoble. Elachi joined JPL in 1970 and has been serving as JPL director since May 2001. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Elachi notes that throughout his career, his links to France have continued through unique research opportunities. "Working together over the last three decades, JPL and the French Space Agency have revolutionized the field of oceanography by developing the capability to observe and monitor ocean currents on a global basis from space," remarked Elachi.

Yannick d'Escatha, President of Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, the government agency responsible for France's space policy, was a distinguished guest at the ceremony. Jean-Lou Chameau, President of Caltech, made welcome and introductory remarks at the ceremony. He received the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 2010. 

Written by Katie Neith