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NASA Loses Veterans in Science, Public Affairs

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Monday, November 27, 2000

NASA employees are mourning two colleagues who passed away last week. Brian D. Welch, a veteran public affairs officer for the space agency and NASA's Director of Media Services, died Friday, Nov. 24. The previous Wednesday, Dr. Gerald Soffen, a guiding force in NASA's effort to search for life elsewhere in the Universe, had died at 74. NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin praised both men for the commitment and enthusiasm they brought to NASA.

As Director of Media Services, Welch led many of the agency's public outreach efforts. He was responsible for overall agency news operations, NASA Television and the agency's Internet efforts.

"All of us at NASA are stunned and saddened by this tragic loss," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "Brian's love and enthusiasm for space flight and exploration was infectious. He approached his job with a passion and a purpose and truly embodied the spirit of this agency."

Welch, 42, came to NASA Headquarters as the Adminstrator's speechwriter before being appointed Chief of News and Information. He had also worked at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. (Full obituary).

Soffen, a close advisor to the Administrator, helped shape NASA's Astrobiology program, the study of life in the Universe. Soffen also was instrumental in the establishment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a virtual organization comprising NASA Centers, universities and research organizations dedicated to studying the origin, evolution, distribution and destiny of life in the universe.

"Dr. Soffen brought a vision and passion to space exploration that was remarkable," said Goldin. "His pioneering work on the Viking Missions paved the way for the creation of our astrobiology effort. Gerry's lasting legacy to us is he helped usher in a new era of discovery that will bring a new understanding of fundamental life processes on Earth and throughout our Universe."

Soffen served as project scientist of the Viking Mars Project while at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. Viking 1 landed on Mars on July 20, 1976, with Viking 2 following less than two months later.(Full obituary).

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