American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. Presents CSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Paul Wilbur with Prestigious Award

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Professor Paul Wilbur and John Williams, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Recently, Colorado State University professor of mechanical engineering Paul Wilbur was awarded the Wyld Propulsion Award by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.). Wilbur, a past recipient of the prestigious "Medal of Outstanding Achievement in Electric Propulsion" award presented by the Electric Propulsion Society, has worked and researched in the field of ion propulsion and space exploration for four decades.

Wilbur’s research on ion propulsion and work with NASA on missions such as the Deep Space 1 have been very important to space exploration. Ion thrusters on which Wilbur and his students worked have been handpicked by NASA for their future deep space endeavors. Vince Rawlin, Deep Space 1’s test coordinator at NASA stated, “Confidence in the success of the ion thruster and, thus, the Deep Space 1 mission was greatly enhanced, if not made possible by the work of Paul Wilbur. Paul’s flexibility to rapidly attack problems that arose at NASA made the ion thruster team immensely stronger. In addition to enriching the understanding of the many physical processes in ion thrusters, Professor Wilbur motivated the students in his classrooms to assist him in the laboratory. Most of them have gone on to enjoy distinguished careers in fields related to electric propulsion with NASA, other government agencies, industry, and academia.”

Engineering students working in the ion propulsion lab.

According to the AIAA, Wilbur received his award for "his outstanding technical contributions and leadership in developing electrostatic thrusters and hollow cathode sources that significantly enhance commercial and government inspace propulsion capabilities."

"One great legacy of Paul Wilbur is his ability to give, whether it be advice, motivation, knowledge, or perspective," says Professor John Williams who has been tasked with carrying on the CSU tradition of excellence in advanced propulsion research. "I don’t know how I’m ever going to continue Paul’s legacy but I can’t imagine a more enjoyable or fulfilling task to work on."