From fleeing Hitler to Mars: the scientist who changed space travel

Posted on May 29, 2023

Ben Abeles, photographed in 2008 in front of the Kindertransport memorial at Liverpool Street station, central London.

The remarkable journey of Ben Abeles will be celebrated next week by the opening of a new archiv

Ben Abeles’ impact on science was out of this world. He helped develop alloys that were key components of the radioisotope generators that powered US robot space probes on their interplanetary journeys. Nasa was then able to reveal the wonders of the solar system, from the ancient river beds of Mars to the icy moons of Jupiter.

One of the devices is still in use, providing electricity for the Perseverance robot rover that currently trundles across the surface of the red planet.

Abeles was a brilliant scientist, yet his start in life could not have been grimmer. He arrived in Britain from Prague as a child refugee on the Kindertransport, the rescue effort that helped around 10,000 children flee Nazi-occupied Europe and settle in Britain.

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