Dr Pickering has made an outstanding contribution to science and engineering, in particular relating to the exploration of the solar system which has been of immense international importance and benefit. He was born in Wellington and educated at Wellington College. He commenced his tertiary education at Canterbury College (now University) before moving to the USA in 1929 where he has since lived and worked. He is now a USA citizen. From 1954 to 1976 he was Director of the California Technical Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL was transferred to NASA in 1958 with responsibility for the unmanned exploration of the moon and the planets. Under his directorship, the JPL participated in a programme to develop and demonstrate a re-entry test vehicle that would permit missile warheads and payloads to successfully traverse the Earth’s atmosphere following ballistic flight into its upper reaches. The techniques developed were later applied to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned spacecraft. On retirement he established the Pickering Research Corporation to undertake space-related projects. His contributions to space programmes, technologies and science have been recognised by many honours and awards from the USA, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Italy and New Zealand (Honorary knighthood). Throughout his career he has maintained close links with New Zealand and the New Zealand scientific community and has made regular visits to participate in seminars and deliver addresses. In March 2003 he returned to unveil a memorial to Lord Rutherford of Nelson and himself at Havelock and accept an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Canterbury. In 1964 he was elected an Honorary Member and, since 1997, has been an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. This society recently established the Pickering Medal for Technology.
Citation prepared 2003