William Hayward Pickering
|Born||24 December 1910|
Wellington, New Zealand
|Died||15 March 2004 (aged 93)|
Flintridge, California, U.S.
|Citizenship||New Zealand, United States|
|Known for||Space aeronautics pioneering|
William Hayward Pickering (24 December 1910 - 15 March 2004) was a New Zealand-born rocket scientist who headed Pasadena, California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for 22 years, retiring in 1976. He was a senior NASA luminary and pioneered the exploration of space. Pickering was also a founding member of the United States National Academy of Engineering.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 24 December 1910, Pickering attended Havelock School, Marlborough, and Wellington College. After spending a year at the Canterbury University College, he moved to the United States (where he subsequently naturalized), to complete a bachelor's degree at the California Institute of Technology ("Caltech"), and later, in 1936, a PhD in Physics. His speciality was in Electrical Engineering, and he majored in what is now commonly known in scientific vernacular as 'telemetry'.
William Pickering became involved with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1944, during the second world war.
In 1958 the lab's projects were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Pickering's team concentrated on NASA's unmanned space-flight program. JPL, under Pickering's direction flew further Explorer 3 and Pioneer missions as well as the Ranger and Surveyor missions to the moon and the several Mariner flybys of Venus and Mars.
Explorer III discovered the radiation field round the earth that is now known as the Van Allen radiation belt. Explorer 1 orbited for 10 years and was the forerunner of a number of successful JPL earth and deep-space satellites. William Hayward Pickering is not to be confused with William Henry Pickering, an astronomer from an earlier era.
Pickering, keen to support authentic science in his home country, was Patron of New Zealand's only school-based research group, the Nexus Research Group, from 1999 until his death in 2004. Between 1977 and his death in 2004, Pickering also served as Patron of the New Zealand Spaceflight Association; a non-profit organisation that existed from 1977 to 2012 to promote an informed approach to astronautics and related sciences.
In 2009 to mark the International Year of Astronomy, William Hayward Pickering was selected along with cosmologist Beatrice Tinsley to have their names bestowed on peaks in the Kepler Mountains of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. In December 2010 the New Zealand Geographic Board officially gazetted Mount Pickering as an official New Zealand place name.
Three roads in New Zealand have been named after Pickering, namely: Sir William Pickering Drive in the Canterbury Technology Park in Christchurch; Pickering Crescent in Hamilton; and William Pickering Drive in Auckland.
In December 2018 New Zealand company Rocket Lab announced that the fourth launch of their Electron rocket and their first mission for NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program will be named "This one's for Pickering", in honor of Bill Pickering.
William H. Pickering, a leader of the first successful space flight by the United States and its first two decades of planetary exploration, died on Monday at his home in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. He was 93.