Dare to Explore Space

Donald Gurnett


Professor, Physics and Astronomy

College(s): Liberal Arts & Sciences

Don Gurnett’s 50+ year career at the UI began in 1958 as a mentee of UI Physics and Astronomy Professor James Van Allen. His unpretentious Midwestern demeanor masks his legendary contributions to space exploration including the Voyager I spacecraft which in 2012 (after a 36-year journey) became the first human-made object to cross the heliopause – the plasma boundary of the solar system. “Without Don Gurnett, the field of space plasma physics, the understanding of magnetospheres, of the interplanetary medium, would at least have been set back by—I don’t know, 10 or 20 years,” said Tom Krimigis, emeritus head of Johns Hopkins University Space Physics Laboratory in a 2015 interview.

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