Stanley C. Freden, NASA scientist and early contributor to Landsat, dies at 83

April 6, 2011

Stanley C. Freden, a NASA scientist who contributed to the development of the Landsat satellite program, which provides data widely used for oil exploration, flood-plain mapping, mapmaking, and monitoring of deforestation and other large-scale environmental changes, died March 17 at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from valve replacement and heart bypass surgery. He was 83.

Dr. Freden worked for NASA for more than two decades, beginning in 1968 as the chief of the space physics division at what is now the Johnson Space Center in Texas. He pursued research on cosmic rays and micrometeorites and was responsible for monitoring the sun for solar flares during Apollo moon landings.

In 1970, he transferred to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and two years later became the project scientist for Landsat 1, NASA’s new effort to gather information about the Earth using satellites.

Over the next 12 years, he continued as project scientist through two more iterations of the Landsat program, and he played a key role in convening scientists to share information about how Landsat data might be used across many disciplines. He also co-wrote “Mission to Earth: Landsat Views the World,” a 1976 book of satellite images and discussions of their applications.

Later in his career, he worked as an assistant director for space station user systems. He retired in 1991 as assistant director for Earth probes. In 2009, he moved from the Washington area to Las Vegas.

Stanley Charles Freden was born in Queens, N.Y., on Dec. 5, 1927, and moved with his family to Long Beach, Calif., when he was a teenager.

He served as a Navy electronic technician’s mate and graduated from UCLA, where he earned a master’s degree and doctorate in physics. He finished his graduate work in 1956.

Dr. Freden taught physics at UCLA for several years before joining what is now called the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he conducted research on the effects of nuclear weapons. He then worked for several years on Air Force satellite and space programs for the Aerospace Corp. in Los Angeles.

He was a member of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville. He volunteered with the Rockville Tennis Association. In 2007, he was a finalist in the 80-and-over men’s division of the U.S. Tennis Association’s mid-Atlantic outdoor clay court championship.

His marriages to June Hollingshead and Jane Petit ended in divorce.

Survivors include three children from his first marriage, Janis Freden of North Hollywood, Calif., Brad Freden of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Craig Freden of Philadelphia; and two grandchildren.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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