09/11/2017: "Gordon Steele Honored For Contributions To Space Exploration"
(M. Kalbert photo)
By Mary Kalbert
San Juan Islander Gordon Steele has been selected by the Manhattan Project Oak Ridge National Historical Park as one of a group of fourteen scientists being recognized posthumously in a month-long exhibition for their contributions to space exploration.
All the selectees participated in the Manhattan Project during World War II prior to their work in space science and astronomy.
Gordon’s primary contributions to the Manhattan Project were discoveries of tests to isolate nitrogen and carbon from Uranium 235
In the field of space exploration, Gordon’s work on electroluminescent lamps, made under his direction, were aboard the LEM’s (Lunar Excursion Module) that landed on the moon.
In 1973 Gordon founded Luxel Corporation. Gordon and the Luxel team developed and fabricated soft x-ray, Extreme Ultraviolet and Vacuum Ultraviolet (XUV and VUV) foil filters for space probe instruments and satellites. For perspective, a stack of one million filters would not exceed five inches in height. Credits of Luxel include the OSO satellite, Pioneer, Voyager Space Probe, Lunar Orbiter, Apollo Soyuz, and Skylab among others.
In 1985 the Challenger- Spacelab-2 mission included Luxel filters that were used to take the first distortion-free photos of the sun’s surface and corona. In a recent interview, Dr. Loren Acton, Astro-physicist and payload specialist on that mission stated, “Gordon and the Luxel team provided filters that had to do what we wanted them to do; withstand launch, withstand the space environment, be mechanically sound and they had to know the mechanical, electro-mechanical and thermal capabilities of those filters. Without those filters the science would not have been advanced the way it was able to do so.”
Other scientists selected for this recognition include three Nobel prize winners; Dr. Glenn Seaborg, Chemistry; Dr. Harold Urey, Chemistry; and Dr. Eugene Wigner, Physics.
Gordon held his license as a Professional Chemical Engineer for 50 years. Luxel Corporation, which he sold in 1988, remains the premier fabricator of ultrathin EUV and Soft X-ray filters.
(John Stimpson photo)