Henry Wong

Henry Wong, a sage advisor for the Landsat 7 project, known for his positive outlook, can-do attitude, and for ending conversations with “Keep smiling.”

Mar 12, 2014 • The venerable Landsat Program has relied on a cast of thousands to become the successful four decade-plus land observing satellite program that it is today. Sadly, one of those important cast members passed away last month.

Henry “Hank” Poy Wong died peacefully at home on February 7, 2014 at age 89. Born in San Francisco, Wong spent a decade in China as a child before returning to the U.S. where he went on to study at the University of California Berkeley and University of Minnesota. After serving in the Army during World War II, Wong worked as the Chief Engineer at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif. and then moved east to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where he advised on programs like Apollo and Landsat 7.

On the Landsat 7 project, Wong helped to smoothly guide the project through the removal of the High Resolution Multispectral Stereo Imager (HRMSI) instrument championed by the Defense Department, when Defense left Landsat early in the mission. Wong also advised the Landsat 7 Ground System team and provided important information on preparing for a Vandenberg launch.

“Hank’s mastery was project management… the networking and interconnections among people that enabled and expedited the work flow,” explains Steven Scott, the Chief Engineer at NASA Goddard and former Landsat 7 Lead Systems Engineer.

Despite the high-stress environment of a satellite build and launch, Wong is repeatedly remembered as kind, helpful, positive, and encouraging.

“It was his confidence in a solution that kept you from giving up on finding one,” says Scott. “He was like the consigliere to a succession of some of Goddard’s best Project Managers.”

“From Program Managers to Center Directors to Headquarters folks, his advice and counsel were sought,” recalls Terry Arvidson, a Senior Landsat Systems Engineer.

“He was a calming force, a person who would listen and who could offer sage advice, and who spent a lot of time ferreting out ‘lessons learned’ during the process of building the Landsat 7 mission,” explains Darrel Williams, the Landsat 7 Project Scientist. “Those documented lessons learned will benefit future Earth observation missions, whether they be Landsat or some other mission.”