More than 15 years after he left NASA, the late Dr. Burt
Edelson’s legacy can still be seen in NASA’s Space Science
and Earth Science programs.

Dr. Edelson passed away January 6 in New York City, where he
was visiting family and friends. He was 75.

Between 1982 and 1986, he was NASA’s Associate Administrator
for Space Science and Applications. Soon after arriving, he
approved the program that would provide for the development
of new instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope.

“He had the vision and foresight to know that Hubble had to
be maintained and upgraded,” said Dr. Edward Weiler,
Associate Administrator for Space Science, who was the Hubble
program scientist in the 1980s. “He allowed us to start
development of the second Wide-Field/Planetary Camera, which
was installed during the first Hubble servicing mission and
became the telescope’s workhorse scientific instrument.”

Coincidentally, on January 8, only two days after Dr.
Edelson’s death, a NASA Space Science Update unveiled the
latest findings from the camera: evidence that a substantial
portion of the stars in the universe formed relatively
quickly after the big bang.

Dr. Edelson’s influence can also be seen in NASA’s Earth
Science Enterprise, which grew out of Mission to Planet
Earth, a program originally proposed in 1986 and formalized
in the late 1980s.

“Burt Edelson sponsored the concepts that became Mission to
Planet Earth, though it didn’t become a program until after
he had left NASA,” said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate
Administrator for Earth Science.

Dr. Edelson was a long-time advocate of the Landsat program
and other applications of remote sensing research, said Dr.
Asrar, and spent much of his professional life working for
improvements in telecommunications satellite technology. He
sponsored the development of NASA’s Advanced Communications
Technology Satellite, which was launched in 1993.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1947, he went
on to receive his M.S. and Ph. D. degrees from Yale
University in Metallurgy as part of his military service.

He was assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory in the mid-
1950s, where he started a series of distinguished space
applications projects in navigation and positioning and in
1959 started the U.S. Navy program in satellite
communications. Commander Edelson was assigned from 1962-65
to the new White House National Space Council. Upon his
retirement from the Navy in 1967, he joined Comsat Corp. as
the Deputy Director of the fledgling Comsat Laboratories. He
became its Director in 1972.

Dr. Edelson provided the vision and leadership for a large
number of new satellite communications components, systems
and applications, including the development of small ground
and ship terminals, space teleports, and geostationary
platforms. Dr. Edelson retired from Comsat as a Senior Vice
President in 1982. He retired from NASA in 1986 and became a
Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins
University, School of Advanced and International Studies, in

His desire to have a satellite communications R&D center with
engineering capability resulted in his 1991 founding of the
Institute for Applied Space Research at the School of
Engineering and Applied Science of the George Washington
University in Washington. He remained active directing R&D
projects, primarily in high data-rate satellite
communications, until his death.

Dr. Edelson co-authored a number of books on satellite
communications and had over 75 technical publications. He
chaired national and international committees on science and
engineering and served on the Boards of a number of emerging
companies. He always emphasized the global nature of space
and co-founded a number of international space programs
including the Japan-U.S. Science Technology and Space
Applications Program. He was a Member of the International
Academy of Astronautics, a Life Fellow of the IEEE, and a
Fellow of the AIAA, the AAAS and the British Interplanetary
Society. He was a Member of the Cosmos and Army-Navy Club. He
received numerous awards including the U.S. Navy Legion of
Merit, the Yale University Wilbur Cross Medal, the NASA
Exceptional Service Medal and the SSPI Hall of Fame Award.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Betty Good
Edelson; his sons Stephen, John and Daniel and their wives
Margaret, Catherine and Vivian; and his grandchildren Rachel,
Kate, David, Rose and William.