Dr. George R. Ricker was the principal investigator for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Sky Survey (TESS) Explorer mission, which was successfully launched in April 2018. He served as the Director of the Detector Laboratory and Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
Dr. Ricker’s experimental research interests were focused on the development of new solid-state photon detectors, based on silicon charged-coupled devices (CCDs) and intended primarily for space astronomy applications. He was also a pioneer in the development of small, inexpensive satellites for astronomical missions. Dr. Ricker was the principal investigator for the international High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE-2) mission–a small satellite incorporating instruments from France, Japan and the United States–which was launched in October 2000, and was operated successfully in orbit for six years. Designed, constructed, and integrated at the MIT Kavli Institute, HETE-2 was the first satellite mission entirely devoted to the study of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Dr. Ricker was the PI for the CCD Solid State Imaging (SIS) spectrometer on the Japan-US ASCA mission (launched in 1993), the first photon-counting CCD instrument ever flown. He served as Deputy-PI for the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) on NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched in 1999 and is currently operating. He also served as the US PI for the X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (XIS) CCD Camera on the Japan-US Astro-E1 mission. He also served as the MIT PI for the suite of silicon-drift detectors for NASA’s Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission, which successfully launched to the International Space Station in 2017. Dr. Ricker’s astronomical interests included studies of extrasolar planets, and of transient high energy sources and their counterparts.
Dr. Ricker received his undergraduate degree from MIT in physics, an M.S. in astronomy from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. During his accomplished career, Dr. Ricker published more than 300 papers in astronomy, high energy astrophysics, and experimental physics.