Darrel L. Williams, Ph.D., was recognized for his individual contributions as a catalyst behind many innovations for the Landsat program.
Sponsored by the USGS and NASA, the annual award and citation was presented on November 15, 2017 at a special commemorative event at the Pecora 20 conference.
The award has been presented annually since 1974 and honors the memory of William T. Pecora, Ph.D., former director of the USGS and undersecretary of the Department of the Interior. Dr. Pecora was a motivating force behind Secretary Udall’s 1966 announcement for the establishment of civil remote sensing of the Earth from space.
Darrel L. Williams, chief scientist for Global Science and Technology, was recognized for outstanding contributions to understanding the Earth through remote sensing. He retired from NASA in 2010, following a distinguished 35-year career primarily focused on the Landsat program.
He was the catalyst behind many new innovations for the Landsat 7 mission. For example, he helped improve the quantity and quality of imagery by comparing simultaneously acquired Landsat 5 with Landsat 7 data for cross-calibration between the two satellites.
Williams played an instrumental role in the development of the Landsat 7 long-term acquisition plan to ensure that a robust, global and seasonal archive was acquired. Two significant examples include a global archive of coral reefs and the acquisition of Landsat imagery of Antarctica, leading to the highly acclaimed Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica.
After discovering that Landsat 5 was not conducting routine orbit adjustments and scientists were faced with potential degradation in data, Williams was critical in ensuring the issues were remedied. Landsat 5 went on to function another 17 years and acquire over one million additional images.
Currently, as chief scientist at Global Science and Technology, he has explored innovative approaches to follow-on Landsat missions and continues to support completion of the soon-to-be-published Landsat Legacy study, which documents the definitive history of the Landsat program. Williams is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland.
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