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Release: April 4, 2001

Van Allen subject of documentary on IPTV April 8, 10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- James A. Van Allen, Regent Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa and a "founding father" of the space age, is the subject of a one-hour-long documentary scheduled for broadcast on Iowa Public Television at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 8 and again at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 10.

Titled "James Van Allen -- Flights of Discovery" and produced by the UI Video Center and Blooming Tree Productions, the documentary is narrated by NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw. The story begins with a personal look at the man who headed the UI department of physics and astronomy from 1951 to 1985 and continues to conduct space research. The documentary also makes use of historical footage, interviews with past and present colleagues, and data from historic and recent space missions, according to Dan Lind, director of the UI Video Center and co-executive producer of the project.

"This documentary not only chronicles the life of a great and humble American, Dr. James Van Allen, but it also explores, through his enormous contributions and history-making experiences, an era of U.S. history that has been incompletely and seldom seen or explained," Lind says. "For the first time, interviews with Dr. Van Allen and his associates, those who lived the events, provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at the development of the U.S. space program and, quite surprisingly, a first-heard account of what were some of the most top-secret government activities and events during the early days of the Cold War and the 'race for space.'"

Born September 7, 1914 in Mount Pleasant, Van Allen is famous for his 1958 discovery of energetic particles in the Earth's magnetic field, a phenomenon later named the Van Allen radiation belts, using data from the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1. However, he is also recognized for his 1973 first-ever survey of Jupiter's radiation belts using the Pioneer 10 spacecraft and his 1979 discovery and survey of Saturn's radiation belts using Pioneer 11. In addition, he has been the primary force behind space research at the University of Iowa, where researchers have designed and built scientific instruments for more than 50 successful U.S. satellites and space probes. Van Allen and his University of Iowa colleagues, Donald Gurnett, Jack Scudder and Louis Frank, currently have active instruments on three Earth-orbiting satellites and five deep space missions: Pioneer 10, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Galileo and Cassini.

Van Allen's many awards and honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences since 1959 and the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for scientific achievement, presented in 1987 by President Reagan in ceremonies at the White House. In 1989 he

received the Crafoord Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm and presented by the King of Sweden. The Crafoord Prize is the Academy's highest award for research in a number of scientific fields and, for space exploration, is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The documentary was made possible by generous contributions from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, the R.J. McElroy Trust and the Iowa Arts Council.

Copies of the documentary can be acquired by calling the University of Iowa Video Center toll free at 866-287-1234.