Malayali bags NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal
Dr Renjith Kumar became the first Malayali to win the NASA Distinguished Public Service medal. He is the second Indian after R K Chetty Pandipati to win this prestigious medal. The awards were distributed by the NASA Deputy Administrator Dr Jim Morhard in a virtual ceremony.
He has been actively involved in various NASA projects for the last 30 years. Dr Kumar was honored “for distinguished public service to NASA’s mission through executive leadership and engineering contributions, focusing on technical excellence and customer satisfaction” reads the award citation from NASA HQ.
“In 1993, while supporting a White House study of the Space Station redesign, Dr. Kumar’s analyses of new configuration control and microgravity characteristics were leveraged across the three leading options, providing critical insights to White House and NASA officials during the official ISS configuration. Following his support of ISS, Dr. Kumar became involved in the groundbreaking Passive Aerodynamically Stabilized Magnetically Damped Satellite experiment, which was deployed from the Space Shuttle in 1996” says NASA in its press statement.
Renjith Kumar did his schooling at Loyola School, Thiruvananthapuram and B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering at College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET). Then he pursued his MS and Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Institute of Technology, USA. Later on, he rose to become the CEO of Virginia-based Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA).
His company was closely involved in redesigning NASA International Space Station and contributed substantially for the highly successful Mars missions.
“Impacts of his leadership are also felt within the NASA civil service workforce; due to the quality of talent attracted by AMA and their successful deployment on NASA missions, many AMA staff members have moved into NASA civil service roles and advanced into prominent positions across the Agency. The sheer number of these conversions, relative to company size, is a testament to Dr. Kumar’s commitment to the technical and organizational success of NASA” adds NASA in its press statement.
(The author is an Indian astrophysicist at Institut de mécanique céleste et de calcul des éphémérides, Observatoire de Paris, France)