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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

NASA honors former resident

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ken Williams has been quite busy recently.

And through his efforts, he was recently recognized by NASA.

Williams, a former Brazil resident, was awarded a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal earlier this month.

The 1974 Brazil High School graduate said the award came with a citation, which read, "For your engineering excellence as the Stardust Navigation Team Chief in detailed planning, review and operations of the successful sample return phase of the mission."

He said Stardust was a NASA Discovery Mission, which launched in early 1999.

"Stardust flew by the comet Wild 2 in January 2004," Williams said, "collecting dust, which was successfully returned to Earth.

"I led a team of 15 engineers in navigating the spacecraft from deep space back to Earth. The sample return capsule was released from the spacecraft and landed safely in Utah on Jan. 15, 2006."

Williams said the award was made by NASA on "the recommendation of my former managers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, particularly those on the Stardust Project and the Guidance, Control and Navigation Section."

Williams said that while he received the award as an individual, he wanted to recognize the people he worked with.

"I feel honored to receive this recognition, which I share with a team of very talented, world-class engineers," he said, "all of whom worked hard to keep Stardust on course and well inside the target recovery zone in Utah.

"The comet dust samples we helped bring back are remnants left over from the formation of our solar system and will be the focus of scientific research for many years to come."

NASA distributes awards like this on an annual basis.

Williams has worked as a system engineer in the aerospace field since 1989. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Indiana State University in 1977 and 1980.

He said his parents, the late Hubert and Delilah Williams, "inspired me to succeed academically, and I owe everything I am today to the foundation they provided."

He began his career as an instructor of Physics at Eastern Illinois University in 1981. Following that, he joined the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., where he worked on Navy projects from 1982-89.

He then moved to several space-related projects funded by the Department of Defense.

In 1994, he helped NASA with the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) project, which was completed two years later.

Williams then moved to California to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, the Genesis Mission (solar wind sample return) and various other missions, including Stardust and the Phoenix mission to Mars.

Currently, he works for KinetX, Inc., in Simi Valley, Calif., where he is working on the Messenger Mission to Mercury and other NASA mission proposals.

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