A Southern Highland resident has received an award for his outstanding contributions to space science.
Burradoo resident, Dr. Ken McCracken has received the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Space Science Award for outstanding contributions to space science.
Dr McCracken received the honour at the COSPAR international Assembly in Sydney which began on January 30 and ended February 4 2021.
This is COSPAR's most senior award and Dr McCracken was honoured to receive it.
"Wow! Let's just say I've had a very good career in science and it was very pleasant to see myself recgonised in that way," Dr. McCracken said.
He began his career in space science as a PhD student at the University of Tasmania.
In his time there, he developed the four station Australian neutron monitor network for the International Geophysical in 1957-58.
He installed one of them in Lae, New Guinea, at a time when cannibalism still occurred in the wilds of New Guinea.
"Part of my PhD work was part done in New Guinea," Dr McCracken said.
"I was offered a job there. This was just before the first satellite was launched. I got very interested in working within the field from doing that work.
"From that point on wards, I thought "If other people can fly instruments in space, maybe I can."
"I proposed scientific experiments to NASA and they liked what I proposed and I ended up building instruments for satellites and did a lot of work on those satellites.
"I walked in on the beginning of the space race and was able to make crucial measurements that protected astronauts when they went to the moon."
Dr McCracken's research while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he developed the mathematics and digital computer code to trace the orbits of high energy cosmic rays in a very accurate representation of the magnetic field of the Earth, a technique still used today.
His studies of the Sun in 1960 established the nature of the magnetic field that pervades the solar system.
This is of vital importance nowadays in predicting and avoiding damage to our modern technology from explosions on the Sun.
Dr. McCracken designed and built the cosmic ray detectors flown on the four NASA interplanetary spacecraft, Pioneers 6 -9 that went to the orbits of Venus and Mars, and on earth-orbiting satellites Explorers 34 and 41.
These six instruments gave a "bird's eye" view of the radiation throughout the solar system and were vital in the protection of the US astronauts from fatal exposure to the cosmic radiation while on the Moon.
"When I returned to Australia, there was no space program," Dr McCracken said.
"The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) approached me and said would it be possible to use space technologies to improve mineral exportation in Australia?
"My answer was "yes" and for the next 20 years I worked for the CSIRO improving the way we hunt for minerals in Australia."
Dr McCracken and his colleagues received the CSIRO medal for "Advances in Geophysics", and were joint recipients of Australia's most senior scientific award, the "Australia Prize" for this work.
After retiring from CSIRO, he and his wife Gillian ran a beef breeding property in the Southern Highlands of NSW.
He continued his space research at the University of Maryland (USA); in Switzerland and with colleagues in Australia.
He pioneered using the discoveries of the space era in the study of ice cores from the Antarctic that extend 150,000 years into the past.
After accomplishing so much in science, Dr McCracken isn't finished just yet.
"I'm very happy to keep going," Dr McCracken said.
"An article that 31 colleagues from all around the world and I have published was recently released.
"It's about the manner in which the cosmic rays have probably caused the extinction of the mega fallen of Australia, 42,000 years ago.
"We learn about the past using the material in ice cores. The Antarctic ice cores is a marvelous record keeper of what the sun did in the past.
"My knowledge from space, I'm using to interoperate the ice cores. That's what I'm doing now."
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