Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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AOSS mourns the loss of Dr. Hasso Niemann (1933-2013)

Posted: July 15, 2013

Dr. Hasso Niemann, a SPRL collaborator and a founding father of atmospheric mass spectrometry for space exploration, died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, July 11, 2013 after a brief battle with cancer.

Niemann earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Professor William Dow and former SPRL director Professor Nelson Spencer supervised his PhD research.

Niemann’s educational research entailed the development and rocket flights of the Omegatron mass spectrometer. Measurements made by the Omegatron added immensely to knowledge of the upper atmosphere of the Earth and paved the way to mass spectrometric measurements of the planetary atmospheres.

After his education at Michigan, Niemann joined his mentor, Nelson Spencer, at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 1969. He served there until his death in 2013. Niemann leaves a huge legacy at Goddard and in the planetary and atmospheric sciences community. His career was devoted to the development of mass spectrometer technology and using these capabilities to measure the composition of planetary atmospheres.

Throughout his distinguished career, Niemann maintained a strong, collaborative relationship with SPRL. His loyalty to Michigan provided space exploration opportunities to a large number of students and his educational and collaborative association with the Michigan College of Engineering helped to fuel the strong space science and engineering program at Michigan.

Niemann cultivated broad and long lasting collaborations with world-class planetary atmospheric scientists. He published many ground breaking papers describing the results of these experiments. His notable awards include NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal for his career contributions in mass spectrometry, the Lindsay award in 1997 and the Al Seiff Memorial Award presented to him after his retirement in 2007.

After his retirement Hasso continued to participate in the Cassini mission and continued to advise the mass spectrometer group at Goddard.

Niemann is survived by his wife, Helga, and two children, Eric and Kirsten, and a huge cohort of space explorers and admirers around the world. His legacy will live on not only with his many planetary science colleagues but also with the technical teams that worked with him on all aspects of instrument development. His interest in inviting young people to be part of his instrument efforts, his exemplary leadership and extraordinary work ethic in making the instruments happen, and his graceful and gracious diplomacy in dealing with the myriad people involved in the projects were all lessons in being a model scientist and human being.