Just weeks before a sophisticated probe reaches Mars and only months before launch of a major probe to Saturn, NASA's science program director for solar system exploration was killed on 18 June in a tragic accident. Jurgen Rahe, 57, died when a tree crushed his car during a severe storm.
Rahe oversaw general management, budget, and strategic planning for solar system programs, including the Pathfinder mission to Mars that will land on 4 July and the Cassini spacecraft slated for launch to Saturn this fall. "Under his leadership, NASA's planetary exploration program was experiencing an almost unparalleled period of major discoveries at the same time that a number of new missions were being started and launched," Wes Huntress, NASA's space science chief, said in a statement. "His legacy to the exploration of space is large."
Rahe was also the editor of Astrophysics and Space Science and a member of the editorial board of two other journals, Earth, Moon, and Planets and Il Nuovo Cimento. Prior to joining NASA in 1989, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and also as an astronomer at the Astronomical Institute of the University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.