Universities Space Research Association Announces Passing of Alexander J. Dessler, Former President and CEO of USRA
Washington, DC—April 20, 2023. It is with great sadness that Universities Space Research Association announces the passing of Alexander J. Dessler, the second President of USRA from 1976-1981, and Chair of the Council of Institutions from 1975-1976. Professor Dessler passed away on April 9, 2023 at his home in Houston, Texas at the age of 94.
Dr. Dessler was an esteemed member of the scientific community and had a long and distinguished career in space science. Among his awards was the Arctowski Medal of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences, with the citation “For his notable imagination in framing many of space sciences most basic conceptions about the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field and their interactions with the magnetospheres of Earth and other planets at the beginning of the Space Age.”
During his tenure at USRA, he championed groundbreaking research in a wide range of space science disciplines. He is well known within space science for conceiving the term heliosphere and for founding the first Space Science Department in the United States at Rice University, one of the charter members of USRA.
“Alex will be remembered for his unwavering dedication and tireless efforts to advance space science research,” said Dr. Jefferey Isaacson, President and CEO of USRA. “His legacy is a testament to the numerous contributions he made to that field and to USRA."
Dr. David Cummings, USRA’s Senior Advisor and Historian, and a friend of Prof. Dessler stated, “His major contribution to USRA was the development of its organization structure. It was during his tenure that the headquarters of USRA moved from Texas to the Washington area. He initiated the use of Science Councils for each program or Institute, and one of his first acts was to form a task force on microgravity materials research. NASA implemented the Task force recommendations, and at the same time Dr. Dessler established a new USRA program in microgravity sciences in support of NASA HQ.” Also, during his tenure as President, USRA began work in the atmospheric sciences.
The USRA community extends its sincerest condolences to the Dessler family during this difficult time. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of space scientists to come.
Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology, and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities and conducts other major research and educational programs. It engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at https://www.usra.edu.