August 10, 2006 – Reston, VA – James A. Van Allen, a physicist and space pioneer who discovered the bands of radiation that surround the Earth, died Wednesday, August 9, in Iowa City at the age of 91.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) mourns the passing of this aerospace legend, AIAA Fellow and inspirational teacher, and extends its heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

AIAA President Roger Simpson says, “James Van Allen’s legacy extends well beyond the Van Allen Belts he discovered to the many space scientists he inspired as a longtime University of Iowa professor. Explorer 1 may not have been the first satellite in space, but the data that Dr. Van Allen’s Geiger counter sent back was the first major scientific discovery of the space race. His enthusiasm for science, space exploration, his students and family shone through in all that he did. He will be greatly missed.”

AIAA memorialized Dr. Van Allen’s accomplishments when it established in 2005 the James A. Van Allen Space Environments Award. It is presented to recognize outstanding contributions to space and planetary environment knowledge and interactions as applied to the advancement of aeronautics and astronautics.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) advances the state of aerospace science, engineering, and technological leadership. Headquartered in suburban Washington, DC, the Institute serves over 35,000 members in 65 regional sections and 79 countries. AIAA membership is drawn from all levels of industry, academia, private research organizations and government. For more information, visit