Wed. Sep 23rd, 2020
Jakob van Zyl, Key NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Engineer, Dies at 63

Jakob van Zyl, an engineer who held vital positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was concerned in a lot of area exploration missions above decades, has died. He was 63.

Van Zyl, who retired in 2019 following a 33-yr job, suffered a heart assault on Monday and died Wednesday at a hospital in Pasadena, California, mentioned Veronica McGregor, a spokeswoman for JPL.

Van Zyl’s roles integrated director for astronomy and physics, director for solar procedure exploration and associate director on a venture to formulate a vision for JPL’s potential.

“JPL and NASA are richer for his a lot of technical and managerial contributions, and for his unwavering commitment and engaging character,” JPL Director Michael Watkins mentioned in a statement.

Van Zyl was concerned in missions that sent the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, Dawn to the asteroid belt, Cassini to Saturn, and the InSight Mars and its tying accompanying CubeSat spacecraft. He was also concerned in the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission now en route to the red planet, as nicely as growth of potential missions.

His early operate in Earth sciences led to roles creating and producing missions employing synthetic aperture radar.

A native of Namibia, van Zyl obtained a degree in electronics engineering from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and earned his master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technologies, which manages JPL.

JPL mentioned van Zyl was passionate about encouraging younger persons in Namibia and South Africa to pursue science.

“His legacy will inspire a lot of generations to come,” Lisa Johnson, U.S. ambassador to Namibia, mentioned in a video tribute posted to the embassy Facebook page.

Van Zyl is survived by his wife, Kalfie, and two siblings.

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