COSAM News Articles 2020 August Retired NASA astrophysicist and research scientist helped protect Earth from hazardous meteoroids, asteroids and comets

Retired NASA astrophysicist and research scientist helped protect Earth from hazardous meteoroids, asteroids and comets

Published: 08/25/2020

By: Maria Gebhardt

Jonathan W. Campbell’s career, following parallel paths at times, has been recognized with many honors and accolades, and his inspiration to help others led him to research and teach ways to protect the entire Earth. 

Born in Alexander City and a graduate of Benjamin Russell High School, Campbell currently resides in Madison, Alabama. He is from a dedicated Auburn family whose wife, Charlotte, her two sisters, father, and three sons have all graduated from Auburn. His father-in-law, Jack T. Clift, and his wife Lilian, were founding members of the Auburn University Talon Society.  

Campbell’s father, Rev. Harry U. Campbell, also attended and graduated from Auburn after returning home from serving in the Marines in the Pacific theater during WWII.  Campbell himself, on a parallel path, recently retired after over 20 years as a Methodist Pastor. 

Campbell, an Eagle Scout, graduated in 1972 from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and was selected as a Distinguished Military Graduate with Auburn’s Army ROTC. He went forward to receive three master’s degrees including a master’s degree in experimental plasma and fusion physics graduating in 1974 from Auburn. Later, he also earned a doctorate degree in astrophysics and space science. 

Transferring to the United States Air Force, Campbell, retired at the rank of full Colonel and received the Legion of Merit.  In parallel, he spent more than three decades working for NASA as an astrophysicist, research scientist, and project manager. In a news release from NASA while he was assigned to the National Space Science Technology Center, it explained how he explored “the feasibility of using powerful lasers to deflect asteroids, meteoroids, comets, and other space debris that potentially could be harmful to the Earth.  He has more than a 100 publications and several patents.

In 2003, he was chosen to participate in NASA’s competitive Administrator’s Fellowship Program. 

Campbell’s research includes strategies for preventing hazardous asteroids, meteoroids and comets from striking the Earth through ground-based and space-based laser technology. Further, he has explored the application of magnetohydrodynamic plasmas in reference to aerospace propulsion. Campbell is currently a faculty member at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

A graduate of the Army Airborne School, the USAF Air War College, and an FAA certified flight instructor and commercial pilot, Campbell has logged more than 2,000 hours in the air. 


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