Faculty image Andrew F. Nagy Professor Emeritus Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sc. (also EECS)

I completed my undergraduate education in Australia at the U. of New South Wales in Electrical Engineering. I won a Fulbright Fellowship and went to the U. of Nebraska where I received an M S. in Electrical Engineering.

I came to Michigan in early 1959, as a result of some very effective, high power "salesmanship" by Bill Dow. I had offers from Cornell and UC/Berkeley and was trying to decide where to go for my Ph. D., when Bill Dow called and “sold” me on Michigan. My interest was in automation (feedback control systems) and when I started to look for a summer job it turned out that all opportunities were at Willow Run, and being an Australian citizen I could not work there. I went to see Bill Dow and indicated to him that having recruited me I hope he can help me find a job. He told me not to worry, but go and see Nelson Spencer and he will give me a job. That is how my career at SPRL(Space Physics Research Labortory) began. I worked on a transistorized current detector for the Dumbbell  to replace the electrometer one. The resulting circuit was far too temperature sensitive, so it was never used. At that time the two main projects at SPRL were the Dumbbell and the Pitostatic tube. I stayed on at SPRL and in the Fall started to work on the 13" sphere project. This was to be a rocket launched package of instruments, consisting of mass spectrometers, pressure gauges and Langmuir probes. The mass spectrometer Spencer decided to use was the Omegatron and I started to work/build it. Sometimes, that Fall Hasso Niemann joined SPRL and we worked together on the Omegatron. I believe around that time we got a contract to build a pressure gauge to measure the pressure on the Moon, which was estimated to be very low, so the challenge was to build a vacuum system capable of the estimated pressure. This was no mean feat, because it had to produce a pressure, orders of magnitude less than was ever done before. Dave Taeusch who also joined that year (I think) was undertaking that task. Hasso and I worked on the 13" sphere with the help of some of the technicians, Bill Kartlick and Plymouth Freed. George Carignan joined SPRL in the Fall of 1959 and was of course involved in all that work. We worked through the night until the early morning hours many a days to get the 13"" sphere ready for launch. Some other members of the lab of course continued to work on the Dumbbell and pitottube, which was the "bread and butter" of SPRL at that time. Larry Brace concentrated mainly on the Dumbbell; I do not remember when Mohamed el Moslimany left and Jack Horvath took over with pitot activities.

We finally launched the 13" sphere from Wallops Island sometimes in 1961 (I think). Some aspect of this flight was to be the experimental component of my Ph. D. thesis. However, unfortunately the Aerobee motor shut down early, and while everything worked well (e.g. the sphere ejected, was spinning at the designed rate, the omegatron was making measurements) it did not reach sufficient height to give information of scientific interest. My thesis instead of being experimental and theoretical became theoretical only. We also built two 8" spheres, the purpose of these were different. The sphere was "gridded" and acted as a retarding potential analyzer and also had a cylindrical Langmuir sticking out of it. The two spheres were launched successfully from Eglin Air Force Base, August and October 1962 and were very successful. They provided the first in situ and credible ion temperature measurements and showed directly for the first time that electron and ion temperatures are different in the daytime ionosphere.

Spencer left SPRL and moved to GSFC in 1960 and Larry Brace became the Director of SPRL. However, he left two years later to join Spencer at Goddard and George Carignan took over as Director, a position he held, with great success, for the next 22 years. I graduated in January 1963 and Bill Dow offered me a position as an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering Department starting with the fall semester. I remember him telling me that a new Department is being created that we should try to make some connection with and that a "Dane" was hired to lead the Department. Unfortunately, despite these suggestions it was a number of years until anybody made a move.

After graduation Spencer offered me the opportunity to go to Woomera, Australia for the April 1963 launch of Explorer XVII, the first Aeronomy satellite (to some degree it was an expanded, orbital version of the 13'' sphere). It carried two magnetic mass spectrometers and two Langmuir probes as well as an RF ion mass spectrometer and a number of pressure gauges. I believe there was SPRL involvement in the neutral mass spectrometers and Langmuir probes. The neutral mass spectrometers were sealed by caps before launch and they had to be blown off once the satellite got into orbit (this was a much needed approach, because somewhat earlier the HAL (High Altitude Laboratory of the Aerospace Engineering Dept) group had an unsealed quadrupole mass spectrometer on a satellite (I think it was an OGO) and all it measured was water coming off the surfaces. There was concern that the cap will freeze, and it will not be possible to get it off, so my task at Woomera was to command it to blow off on the first orbit. This effort was successful, although it was touch and go, because a small hill blocked out the area where the satellite came over the horizon.

We also participated in the payload of the first Javelin to be launched from Fort Churchill in November 1964 and a 5(?) stage rocket, called Journeyman, from Wallops in May 1965.  They carried SPRL Langmuir probes, which worked well and provided nighttime electron temperature measurements up to 1700km, which provided a unique data set for establishing the cause of the observed elevated electron temperatures.

During this period the Thermospheres Probes were being developed, built and launched. In the mid 60’s I and George Carignan were selected to build and fly a Langmuir Probe and a mass spectrometer, respectively on the OGO 6 satellite.

There was intense competition between SPRL and HAL. Paul Hays and I were the young faculty members associated with these laboratories, so we decided to somehow build a "bridge". During a lunch at the Pretzel Bell we came up with the idea that we will use a Fabry-Perot interferometer to study mid latitude red arcs. At that time the NSF Aeronomy Section was brand new, headed by Clayton Clark, and they were actually looking for programs to give money to. We quickly sent in a proposal, got funded and we found a graduate student (a fraternity friend of Paul’s) Ray Roble and this was the start of the Michigan Airglow Observatory and the Fabry Perot activities.

Sometimes during the second half of the 60's I decided that it would be a good idea to have a Ph. D. degree program jointly administered among the three Departments involved in space research. I enlisted Ed Epstein, Ernest Fontheim and probably Paul Hays, with whom I already started to work with, to get this program through the University. Rackham was supportive (I believe the Rackham Dean was Sussman and he was very helpful). We needed a name for it and we suggested Planetary and Space Science, after the journal. The Geology Department vetoed planetary and the Astronomy Department was against space, so we punted and selected Aeronomy that nobody objected to, because most people did not know what it meant.

I spent my 1969/1970 sabbatical at UCSD, where I came in contact with Ian Axford, Peter Banks, Jules Fejer and that really pushed me further into theoretical work.  Either during this sabbatical year or the following summer (I kept going back to La Jolla in the summers until 1974) during a backyard picnic Rick Chappell, Peter Banks, Ian Axford and I came up with the idea of a multi satellite mission which will allow making simultaneous measurements along a magnetic field line. This was the birth of the Electrodynamics Explorer concept, which was eventually descoped to Dynamics Explorer and launched as a two spacecraft mission in 1980. DE finished up having significant UM involvement: the first successful space borne Fabry-Perot (Paul Hays, PI), a quadrupole mass spectrometer (George Carignan PI) and me as an Interdisciplinary Scientist. We were also involved significantly in the GSFC Mass spectrometer and Langmuir Probe instruments.

In the late 60’s, I came across a NASA request for proposal to work on a space mission to Venus. Up to that point I never ventured outside terrestrial studies. I did not think I had any chance, but the proposal was to be limited to 5 pages, including references and biography. I owe my "planetary career" to George Carignan's encouragement; he kept telling me what do you have to loose. I did send in a proposal, got selected and that led to Pioneer Venus. Here again SPRL had significant involvement in the GSFC mass spectrometer and Langmuir Probe instruments and I was an Interdisciplinary Scientist.

Maybe the final thing I should mention here is how lucky I was with the post-docs who worked with me. They were all outstanding. Rich Stolarski was the first such hire and Ralph Cicerone (now the President of NAS) came a couple of years later. Sometimes, I think it was 1973, Rich spent some time in Houston working with Bob Hudson and he somehow got involved stratospheric chemistry. After he returned to SPRL, we got a contract from Huntsville to help to write the environmental impact statement for the Shuttle. We knew that it will have some impact on mesospheric NOx but then Richand Ralph looked at the chlorine and came across the now well-known catalytic cycle. It turned out that the amount of chlorine put out by the solid booster was not enough to have a significant effect, but they came up with this important chemical cycle. They presented their result at a meeting in Kyoto, where Mike McElroy was also present. When we all returned from the meeting they were very discouraged that McElroy and company will beat them to it and were ready to drop it. There was an opportunity to publish their work in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry. They were not going to do it, but I pushed them very hard to publish and thus establish their "claim". They eventually did that and the rest is history. I had three other post-docs; Bill Chameides (he is now a Dean at Duke University and a member of the NAS), Tom Cravens (now at the U. of Kansas and a Fellow of the AGU) and Tamás Gombosi (current Chair of AOSS and a Fellow of the AGU).


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