Farquhar Presented College's Alumni Award


Aerospace Engineering at Illinois alumnus Robert W. Farquhar has received the 2013 College of Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.

Robert Farquhar
Robert Farquhar

A 50-year veteran of deep space missions and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Farquhar has been recognized for his deep space missions to asteroids and comets and for leading the NEAR mission to Eros.

The NEAR Shoemaker craft, launched in 1996, was the first space probe to orbit and perform an in-depth investigation of an asteroid and then safely land on it. The Eros landing occurred February 12, 2001. Farquhar directed the NEAR mission, designed to answer many fundamental questions about the nature and origin of asteroids.

Farquhar shared some of his vast knowledge with AE at Illinois students this past fall when he gave an AE 590 Seminar, “Teaching Old Spacecraft New Tricks,” and a special lecture, “Missions to Kuiper-Belt Objects: Pluto and Beyond,” in November. Farquhar was presented the College’s award at that time.

Among Farquhar’s career highlights has been the ISEE-3/ICE (International Sun-Earth Explorer/International Cometary Explorer) mission. As the mission’s flight director, Farquhar led the crew that flew the spacecraft through the tail of the P/Giacobini-Zinner comet in September 1985. This was the first successful mission to a comet. Farquhar’s knowledge of halo orbits, a term that he had coined in his 1969 dissertation at Stanford University, was critical in calculating the trajectory for the successful ISEE-3/ICE mission.

Farquhar got his start in the summer of 1959 at the RAND Corporation working on interplanetary trajectories. From there he went to Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in 1961 where he worked on dynamics and control libration-point satellites and assisted with the preparation of the Interplanetary Flight Handbook for NASA.
Following his 24-year career at NASA, during which time he also helped manage the Halley Comet Mission and the Discovery Program, Farquhar spent 17 years at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory while continuing to lead deep space missions, including the NEAR mission to Eros, which launched in 1996.

Farquhar served as Charles A. Lindbergh Chair for Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum from 2007-08 where he was commissioned to write the memoir, Fifty Years on the Space Frontier. He subsequently joined KinetX Inc., as executive for space exploration.

From 2006-08, Farquhar served as chairman for the International Academy of Astronautics in studying the next steps for human space exploration. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 1981 and was elected to National Academy of Engineering in 2012.

Farquhar wrote the book, Fifty Years on the Space Frontier: Halo Orbits, Comets, Asteroids, and More (available on Amazon.com), and has written, co-written or contributed to over 200 other publications.

Farquhar earned his BS from AE in 1959. He earned an MS in 1961 from the University of California–Los Angeles, and PhD in Astronautical Sciences from Stanford in 1969.