John MacKenty: The 2023 SPIE George W. Goddard Award in Space and Airborne Optics
John MacKenty, Hubble Space Telescope (HST) mission scientist, and a senior scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, has made foundational contributions to ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared space instrumentation. He co-led the design, development, testing, and operations of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on the HST; he is also a pioneer in the field of multi-object spectroscopy from space, and in the development of Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) as individually addressable slit selectors. A cornerstone to the technical success of WFC3, MacKenty played a particularly important role through his elegant crafting of the instrument’s requirements document, based on his keen understanding of the capabilities of the available technology and of the science it enabled. MacKenty also led the initial NASA-funded study for the development of Digital Micro-mirror Devices (DMDs) suitable for James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) operations, requiring both large format and cryogenic operations. In collaboration with the Detector Development Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, he led the analytical studies and the manufacturing process of the first DMDs for the NIRSpec instrument on JWST.
An SPIE proceedings author, MacKenty served as editorial board member for the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, instruments, and Systems (JATIS). He also participated in a special section on Detectors for Astronomy and Cosmology for JATIS.
“Dr. MacKenty is generous with his time and experience,” says SPIE Fellow and Chief Mission Architect, Science and Robotic Exploration at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Jonathan W. Arenberg. “Prior to my work as Dr. MacKenty’s industrial chief engineer, I was working a problem related to molecular contamination on a blocking filter in the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The key issue in my analysis was to determine if the molecular contamination on the filter had been polymerized by UV light also focused by Chandra’s grazing incidence optics. Dr. MacKenty took the time to answer my questions, point me to relevant references and helped look over my results. Dr. MacKenty’s insight into the problem of UV polymerization, gained from his Hubble experience, were freely and generously shared with a colleague, who at that point in time, was on the outer reaches of Dr. MacKenty’s professional network. I am personally and professionally grateful for his time, experience, and insight. This episode also speaks to the breadth of Dr. MacKenty’s work.”