Astronomer Whipple Will Receive Federal Civilian Service Award

Devised Project Moon-Watch

Fred L. Whipple, professor of astronomy and director of the Smithsonian Astro - physical Obervatory, has been chosen by President Kennedy to receive the nation's highest award for distinguished civilian Federal service.

Kennedy will present the award to Whipple and four other recipients on June 12 at a White House ceremony.

Cited for Tracking System

In being selected for the award, Whipple was cited as the astronomer "who conceived and developed an optical satellite tracking system which stood ready to track the first artificial satellite launched and has since provided valuable scientific data."

Named Project Moon-Watch, the system consists of stations around the world which track satellites with optical cameras. Whipple first set up the system as chairman of the rocketry committee of the U.S. National Commission for the International Geophysical Year. It was ready to follow the first Soviet sputnik in October, 1957.


Whipple became director of the Smithsonian Observatory in 1955. Under his leadership it has grown from a small station making only solar observations to a center employing 350 persons engaged in a wide range of astronomical research proects.

During World War II, Whipple developed the confusion reflectors or windows used by American planes to mix-up enemy radar statioins. Earlier, he had won the Donohue medal for independently discovering six comets.

Whipple is chairman of the shooting star committee of the International Astronomical Union, and a member of the IAU's committees on spectrophotometry and on the positions and motions of asteroids.