On January 28, 2020, the Delegation of the European Union to the United States attended a ceremony at the headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) renaming a cutting-edge ocean observation satellite after Michael Freilich, the former head of NASA's Earth Science Division.
The satellite – now called "Sentinel 6A Michael Freilich" – is a joint endeavor between the European Commission, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Sentinel 6-A Michael Freilich is an important component of the European Union's Copernicus program, the EU's Earth observation program managed by the European Commission. It will specifically enable measurements of the height of the sea surface, therefore tracking global sea level rise. The launch is scheduled for this fall, from California.
“This honor demonstrates the global reach of Mike’s legacy,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are grateful for ESA and the European partners’ generosity in recognizing Mike’s lifelong dedication to understanding our planet and improving life for everyone on it. Mike’s contributions to NASA – and to Earth science worldwide – have been invaluable, and we are thrilled that this satellite bearing his name will uncover new knowledge about the oceans for which he has such an abiding passion.”
“Together with other missions of the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme Copernicus, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will contribute to improved knowledge and understanding of the role of the ocean in climate change and for mitigation and adaptation policies in coastal areas,” said Mercedes Garcia Perez, head of the Global Issues and Innovation of the European Union Delegation to the United States. “It will have a large societal impact worldwide as it supports applications in the area of operational oceanography including ship routing, support for off-shore and other marine industries, fisheries, and responses to environmental hazards. This new satellite within the Copernicus constellation will be an additional tool for implementing the European Green Deal to transition the EU to a carbon neutral economy.”