Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Ali Safaeinili, 1964–2009

August 17, 2009

Dr. Ali SafaeiniliDr. Ali Safaeinili, a long-time and respected member of the Radar Science and Engineering team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), passed away on Wednesday, July 29, from complications due to cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer. Safaeinili was 45 years old. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Lisa; two daughters, Nadia, 17, and Roya, 10; his parents, siblings, and many, many friends and colleagues.

Born in Sari, Iran, Safaeinili always wanted to pursue his higher education in science and engineering in the United States and enrolled at Iowa State University in 1985 to study electrical engineering and computer science. He completed his undergraduate studies in two-and-a-half years by testing out of all the required math classes and finished his post-doctorate work in 1995. At JPL for more than a decade, Safaeinili pursued radar as a means to study ice on Earth and the planets. An energetic and innovative scientist, he participated in the design, development, testing, and operation of the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) still operating on Mars Express. He also participated in the design and operation of the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARAD) currently orbiting Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Active in the analysis of radar data, Safaeinili served as the Investigation Scientist for the radar investigations on both projects. In addition to earlier work on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), he led and contributed to efforts to develop new VHF and HF radars for Earth observations and potential applications to Europa and other icy bodies.

Safaeinili often expressed his gratitude for being given the opportunity to do what he loved most in his work at JPL. He also enjoyed giving back to the community, and volunteered with the Westminster Free Clinic, which provides medical care to the uninsured. He was appreciated by all for his warmth, good sense of humor, and generous spirit, and he will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.

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Last updated August 17, 2009