NASA employees are mourning two colleagues who passed away last week. Brian D. Welch, a veteran public affairs officer for the space agency and
NASA’s Director of Media Services, died Friday, Nov. 24. The previous Wednesday, Dr. Gerald Soffen, a guiding force in NASA’s
effort to search for life elsewhere in the Universe, had died at 74. NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin praised both men for the commitment and enthusiasm they brought to NASA.

As Director of Media Services, Welch led many of the agency’s public outreach
efforts. He was responsible for overall agency news operations, NASA Television
and the agency’s Internet efforts.

“All of us at NASA are stunned and saddened by this tragic loss,” said NASA
Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. “Brian’s love and enthusiasm for space flight
exploration was infectious. He approached his job with a passion and a purpose
and truly embodied the spirit of this agency.”

Welch, 42, came to NASA Headquarters as the Adminstrator’s speechwriter before being appointed Chief of News and Information. He had also worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. (Full obituary).

Soffen, a close advisor to the Administrator, helped shape NASA’s Astrobiology program, the study of
life in the Universe. Soffen also was instrumental in the
establishment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a virtual
organization comprising NASA Centers, universities and
research organizations dedicated to studying the origin,
evolution, distribution and destiny of life in the universe.

“Dr. Soffen brought a vision and passion to space exploration
that was remarkable,” said Goldin. “His pioneering work on
the Viking Missions paved the way for the creation of our
astrobiology effort. Gerry’s lasting legacy to us is he
helped usher in a new era of discovery that will bring a new
understanding of fundamental life processes on Earth and
throughout our Universe.”

Soffen served as project scientist of the Viking Mars Project
while at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.
Viking 1 landed on Mars on July 20, 1976, with Viking 2
following less than two months later.(Full obituary).