Irons was among a small group of recipients bestowed with the medal by the NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, at today’s ceremony held at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to those that have “personally contributed to NASA’s advancement of United States’ interests” with their vision and service. By definition, the contributions made by the recipients have “made a profound or indelible impact on NASA mission success and therefore, the contribution is so extraordinary that other forms of recognition by NASA would be inadequate.”
Irons, an internationally respected scientist, has been involved with the Landsat project for decades and has published more than 85 Landsat-related scientific papers. He served as the Landsat 7 Deputy Project Scientist prior to serving as the Landsat 8 Project Scientist. (Landsat 8 was formerly called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission).
Irons shepherded the Landsat 8 project through a series of tumultuous programmatic changes and was a key factor in the establishment of a viable mission approach. He was a champion for maintaining Landsat’s hallmark standard of rigorous instrument calibration, and also fostered a partnership with the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 mission team to cross-calibrate the sensors so that future compatible data products will be available to data users. He advocated strongly for the inclusion of a thermal infrared sensor, which thanks to his unyielding support, was included on Landsat 8 and is being routinely used by water managers and others around the world.
Launching rigorously calibrated scientific instruments takes the hard work of a massive and talented team. Essential to any such team is the vision, approachability, and dedication of a leader—Landsat 8 was fortunate to have Irons fulfilling that role.
As stated in Irons’ nomination, “As the [Landsat 8] Project Scientist, Jim has simply been extraordinary… If a book were written about the [Landsat 8] saga, Jim Irons would be the hero.”
The Distinguished Service Medal is one among 18 categories of NASA Agency Awards. Many more Landsat 8 team members will receive 2014 NASA Agency Awards at an award ceremony held at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Details about the team’s contributions will be featured on this website then.
These Landsat 8 recipients, include:
Outstanding Leadership Medal
Outstanding Public Leadership Medal
Ed Knight (Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp.)
Kari Wulf (Aerospace Corp.)
Exceptional Achievement Medal
Exceptional Service Medal
Group Achievement Award
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission Team, led by Ken Schwer
+ Full listing of the 2014 NASA Agency Awards [pdf]
Safeguarding freshwater resources is crucial, and while scientists use a variety of ground-based techniques to gauge water quality, the Landsat program has provided water quality data from orbit for decades.