VAN NUYS (CBSLA.com) — Colleagues of a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist killed Friday when his small plane went down in Van Nuys are discussing his contributions to JPL and NASA.

Alberto Enrique Behar, 47, crashed into the busy intersection of Hayvenhurst Avenue and Vanowen Street in Lake Balboa. He was the sole occupant of the experimental single-engine Lancair plane, which he used to commute from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., to this job in Pasadena, according to a friend.

The friend described Behar as a husband, father of three, and renowned scientist.

(credit: Jon Baird/KNX1070)

(credit: Jon Baird/KNX1070)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released the following statement:

“During his 23-year career at JPL, Dr. Alberto Behar specialized in robotics for exploring extreme environments on Earth and other planets. He played a key role in developing in situ robotic systems for measuring ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland using submarines, ice rovers and boats. He also participated in the exploration of Mars, serving as investigation Scientist for instruments on the Curiosity rover and the Mars Odyssey orbiter. Alberto was also a research professor at Arizona State University, helping to develop the next generation of explorers.”

“We will deeply miss Alberto,” said Dr. Michael Watkins, manager of JPL’s Science Division. “He was well known for his energy, enthusiasm, and technical excellence. His career was dedicated to better understanding Earth and the other planets. On behalf of everyone at JPL, I wish to extend our condolences to his family and friends.”

In Washington, NASA Headquarters scientist Dr. Thomas Wagner praised Behar this way:
“From his submarines that peeked under Antarctica to his boats that raced Greenland’s rivers, Alberto’s work enabled measurements of things we’d never known. His creativity knew few bounds. He is, and will forever be, sorely missed.”

According to CBS2/KCAL9’s Cristy Farjardo, Behar’s resume indicated that he was an experienced pilot and helicopter instructor. His friend said, “The world has lost a good man and brilliant scientist.”

The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.

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