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Rabat – Moroccan scientist Kamal Oudrhiri led a successful mission for the United States Space Agency (NASA), earning his team a coveted prize in the field of space sciences.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) awarded its prestigious 2020 Space Science Award to Oudrhiri’s “Cold Atom Lab” mission.
The Cold Atom Lab is the first quantum physics laboratory in space. The multi-use facility has operated aboard the International Space Station since July 2018.
The lab achieved a breakthrough in the field of quantum physics in May. A prestigious scientific team, including three Nobel Prize winners, participated in the successful mission.
The AIAA award recognizes the Moroccan scientist’s team for “developing and delivering the highly innovative Cold Atom Laboratory to the International Space Agency and for its fundamental scientific achievements,” Oudrhiri said Thursday to Morocco’s state media.
The lab cools atoms to near absolute zero, minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than any other known location in the natural universe, according to the same source.
“The experiments carried out at these extreme temperatures help us to understand how our world works at the smallest scale,” the Moroccan scientist explained.
As project and mission leader of the Cold Atom Lab, Kamal Oudrhiri congratulated those who helped design, build, and operate the laboratory.
“The Cold Atom Lab project depends on the work of a whole team and the commitment to excellence of all those involved in this high-tech lab with the objective of fostering great science that expands our understanding of the Earth, and the universe around us,” he underlined.
Kamal Oudrhiri has worked at NASA for 20 years and amassed numerous awards and decorations for his accomplishments in the field of space science.
The Fez native has played a key role in multiple missions, notably those related to Mars exploration vehicles “Curiosity,” “Rover,” “Spirit,” and “Opportunity.” He was also involved in the exploration missions “Cassini” on Saturn, “Grail” on Earth’s moon, and “Juno” on Jupiter.
He was the first Moroccan to work at NASA and received the agency’s exceptional service medal in November 2019, in recognition of his sustained performance and multiple contributions to NASA projects and programs.