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Case Western Reserve University to award Inamori Ethics Prize to space scientist, geologist Farouk El-Baz

December 11, 2017 GMT

Case Western Reserve University to award Inamori Ethics Prize to space scientist, geologist Farouk El-Baz

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Farouk El-Baz, a geologist and a NASA scientist on the Apollo space program’s site-selection committee, will receive the Inamori Ethics Prize at Case Western Reserve University.

The university is scheduled to present the honor to El-Baz during campus events Sept. 13 and 14, 2018.

The ethics prize has been awarded annually since 2008 to honor an individual for significant and lasting contributions to ethical leadership on the global stage.

“Dr. El-Baz has shown tremendous ethical leadership throughout his life,” Inamori Center Director Shannon French, a professor at the law school and the philosophy department, said in a statement. “Not only did he serve all of humankind with his essential contributions to NASA’s historic Apollo space program, but he has since turned his talents to the task of locating desperately needed scarce resources here on the Earth to save lives and resolve deadly conflicts. As many have stated, he is truly a national—and international—treasure.”

El-Baz is director of the Center for Remote Sensing and a research professor in the departments of archaeology and electrical and computer engineering at Boston University

The center uses space technology to study the earth and its environment, including finding critically needed groundwater in arid regions around the globe.

The Egyptian-born El-Baz received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and geology from Ain Shams University in Cairo and received a master’s and PhD from the University of Missouri. He taught mineralogy at Heidelberg University in Germany and worked in Egypt’s oil industry. He became a United States citizen in 1970.

From 1967 to 1972, El-Baz participated in the Apollo program as supervisor of lunar science planning at Bellcomm Inc., a division of AT&T that conducted systems analysis for NASA headquarters in Washington D.C.

In 1973, he established and directed the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum of Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He was vice president for science and technology at Itek Optical Systems from 1982 until he joined Boston University in 1986.

El-Baz recalled that as Apollo 11 slowly descended to the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969, the team of NASA scientists responsible for choosing the first lunar landing site was as anxious and in awe as the rest of the world.

“All our hearts were pounding,” he said in a statement. “What if the moon was completely different than we thought? We were not 100 percent sure of all aspects, so there was room for error.”

The capsule touched down four miles from the predicted landing point and about a minute-and-a-half sooner than scheduled. The mission—and five Apollo lunar landings that followed—was considered a success.

In his honor, one episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” featured a shuttle spacecraft named “El-Baz.” He was also the focus of an episode of the Tom Hanks-produced HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon,” in a segment titled, “The Brain of Farouk El-Baz.”

El-Baz is known for pioneering work in applying space images to groundwater exploration in arid lands, CWRU said. Based on the analysis of space photographs, his recommendations resulted in the discovery of groundwater resources in Egypt, India, China, Sudan, Sultanate of Oman, United Arab Emirates and Chad.

To honor his research on the understanding of arid lands and their groundwater resources, the Geological Society of America Foundation established two annual awards: The Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research to reward professional excellence in arid land studies, and The Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award to be awarded to two students—one male and one female—to encourage geological research on arid lands.