Edward Stone Retires After 50 Years as NASA Voyager’s Project Scientist

Ed Stone in 2019, in front of a scale-model of the Voyager spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Ed Stone in 2019, in front of a scale-model of the Voyager spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Edward Stone has retired as the project scientist for NASA’s Voyager mission a half-century after taking on the role. Stone accepted scientific leadership of the historic mission in 1972, five years before the launch of its two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Under his guidance, the Voyagers explored the four giant planets and became the first human-made objects to reach interstellar space, the region between the stars containing material generated by the death of nearby stars.

Until now, Stone was the only person to have served as project scientist for Voyager, maintaining his position even while serving as director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California from 1991 to 2001. JPL manages the Voyager mission for NASA. Stone retired from JPL in 2001 but continued to serve as the mission’s project scientist.

Linda Spilker will succeed Stone as Voyager’s project scientist as the twin probes continue to explore interstellar space. Spilker was a member of the Voyager science team during the mission’s flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. She later became project scientist for NASA’s now-retired Cassini mission to Saturn and rejoined Voyager as deputy project scientist in 2021.

Jamie Rankin, a research scientist at Princeton University and a member of the Voyager science steering group, has been appointed deputy project scientist for the mission. Rankin received her Ph.D. in 2018 from Caltech, where Stone served as her advisor. Her research combines data from Voyager and other missions in NASA’s heliophysics fleet.

Among the many honors bestowed on him, Stone has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1984. He was awarded the National Medal of Science from President George H.W. Bush in 1991. When Stone was interviewed on the late-night TV show “The Colbert Report” in 2013, NASA arranged for host Stephen Colbert to present him with the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the agency’s highest honor for a nongovernment individual. In 2019, he received the Shaw Prize in Astronomy from the Shaw Foundation in Hong Kong for his work on the Voyager mission.

For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit https://www.nasa.gov/voyager.