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Dr. Robert Q. (Bob) Fugate, a distinguished member of the scientific and professional cadre of senior executives, Senior Scientist for Atmospheric Compensation at the Starfire Optical Range, Directed Energy Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (retired). With an illustrious career spanning over five decades, Dr. Fugate has been a trailblazer in the fields of atmospheric propagation physics, adaptive optics, and space surveillance.
Throughout his tenure with the U.S. Air Force, which commenced in 1970, Dr. Fugate made significant contributions to various areas, including atmospheric propagation, electro-optical sensors, detection, and adaptive optics. Notably, he performed the groundbreaking experiment that demonstrated the feasibility of using laser beacons for adaptive optics—a pioneering achievement that paved the way for advancements in this field.
Under Dr. Fugate's leadership, the Starfire Optical Range developed and currently operates some of the world's most advanced and highest-performance adaptive optics systems. These systems garnered global acclaim from the astronomy community, establishing the Starfire Optical Range as a leader in atmospheric compensation for large ground-based telescopes.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Dr. Fugate is also known for his passion as an expert amateur astrophotographer. His love for capturing the celestial wonders through the lens of his telescope showcases a lifelong dedication to the exploration of the cosmos, both professionally and personally.
Dr. Fugate's expertise has been acknowledged through numerous national awards, including the prestigious Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1997 and the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award in 2003. Additionally, in 1997, Asteroid 6770 Fugate (1985 QR) was named in honor of his contributions to the field. The citation for this honor read:
(6770) Fugate = 1979 OP8 = 1980 TP13 = 1985 QR
Discovered at Anderson Mesa on 1985-08-22 by E. Bowell.
(6770) Fugate = 1985 QR
Named in honor of Robert Q. Fugate (b. 1943), of the U.S. Air Force's Starfire Optical Range (SOR), near Albuquerque. Under Fugate's leadership, the SOR has developed and operates the most advanced adaptive optics system worldwide. Fugate performed the first experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of using laser beacons for adaptive optics. He has chaired many committees and received numerous awards, including the 1997 Distinguished Civilian Award, the highest given to a civilian by the U.S. Department of Defense. Named by the discoverer following a suggestion by J. D. Drummond, who prepared the citation. [Ref: Minor Planet Circ. 31025]
His educational journey includes earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics with high honors from Case Institute of Technology in 1965 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in experimental physics from Iowa State University in 1970, where he was a NASA Fellow.
Dr. Fugate's lasting impact as a trailblazer and visionary leaves an indelible imprint on the realms of atmospheric optics and adaptive optics. His remarkable astrophotography, frequently showcased during the Explore Alliance's Global Star Party, serves as a continued wellspring of inspiration for a global audience.
Robert Q. Fugate's Biography on the US. Airforce's Website
- Asteroid (6770) Fugate on the IAU Minor Planet Center