Today, 8/29/13, Caltech has announced the death of Dr. Bruce Murray, former director of JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA). You many remember JPL as mission control for the recent Mars landings.
I first met Bruce when I was a graduate student in Planetary Science at Caltech, where he was a prominent figure in early exploration of Mars and Mercury. I had the privilege of watching Mars landings with Bruce. I also remember listening to him debate Carl Sagan over the role of water on Mars. Carl kept asking us why the early Mars missions were not showing all the water that Carl knew was there. At the first such exchange, the audience laughed and suggested to Carl that perhaps it was because Carl himself was wrong about Mars being wet. Subsequent missions have proven Carl to be right about water on Mars and the two went on to found the Planetary Society to continue to press for exploration of our solar system after NASA gave up the effort under Nixon.
His death is a loss for both the Caltech community and for Solar System exploration. Hopefully those of us who still believe in the work will continue on with his legacy. Perhaps private industry, such as Golden Spike and Mars One, will be able to do what our government can no longer fund.