Jarrod Suda. Credit: Sharon Ray

Jarrod Suda. Credit: Sharon Ray

By Jarrod Suda, AIRS Project Intern, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

As I walked into my new office space, I saw out of the corner of my eye a plaque placed on a closed office door displaying the words In Memory of Dr. Moustafa Chahine. I realized then that I had finally arrived, but he had suddenly departed. Dr. Chahine had many titles including friend, teacher, and leader; but to me, a mentor. Despite his physical absence, he still guided me at a close distance.

I met Dr. Chahine face to face only once but that short encounter still remains a clear memory and a testimony to his insightful wisdom. With such elegance, Dr. Chahine said to me, "What is life? There is no definition, but when you see it you will know it." Despite the simplicity, those words, for some unexplainable reason, gave me clarity. Because Dr. Chahine was the source of those words they moved me exceptionally, and for that reason they will remain with me for years to come. My father, a friend of Dr. Chahine, said to me, "When you converse with him, you learn things." Across the campus of JPL, employees saw Dr. Chahine not only as a faithful gentleman but also as a humble educator.

As I walked through the halls of Dr. Chahine's project office, I realized that his absence was becoming more apparent every day. One morning, I overheard words capable of wilting any persons heart, "It's not the same without him." I have been deprived of the opportunity to work with him, unlike many blessed JPL employees. I can now only imagine what more wisdom he could have poured out onto me. Although his physical joyfulness and enthusiasms left us, his invisible mentorship grew stronger yet. I believe that with his colossal legacy, he has communicated to the JPL community to continue, in his famous words, "Always make progress." I knew that as I studied his numerous past achievements and saw his countless successes, I beheld a beautiful life. "What is life? There is no definition, but when you see it you will know it."

mous chahine Dr. Moustafa Chahine was the founder of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) Project, and AIRS Science Team Leader until his passing in 2011. Credit: Steve Friedman