NASA scientist wins Nobel prize for physics

Goddard director: 'Government scientists can do world-class science.'
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

It was all champagne and toasts yesterday at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as employees celebrated one of their own winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, The Washington Post reports.

Dozens of co-workers signed a banner inscribed with "Congratulations, John Mather" and many others stood in long lines to offer back slaps, handshakes and hugs. A young colleague slipped him a note that said simply: "I am very inspired by your work."

"This is us," said Mather, 60, looking out over the more than 400 NASA Goddard co-workers who had gathered to wish him well. "This is my family here. These are the people I love."

Mather and George F. Smoot, an experimental astrophysicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, used data from a NASA satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), they helped create to provide tangible evidence of the Big Bang Theory.

NASA officials had another reason to smile, the Post notes.

But the acclaim he's receiving also redounds to Goddard. "This just proves that government scientists can do world-class science," Goddard director Edward J. Weiler said. "This means a lot, not only to Goddard but to all NASA scientists."

Goddard scientist Blake Lorenz, said the prize will probably loosen purse strings in Washington and lead to better funding for research projects. The Goddard center also is responsible for the Hubbard telescope. "We are part of a successful team and Goddard is famous for getting a lot of bang for the buck."

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