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Dr. Michael Belton
In Memory of

Dr. Michael James Scott Belton

1934 - 2018

Obituary of Dr. Michael Belton

Michael James Scott Belton was born in Bognor Regis, England, and raised in Lincolnshire, England.He is survived by his daughter, Lise Myra Belton (John Prader); his son, Scott Alexander Belton; and three grandchildren:  Emily Prader, John Prader and Elizabeth Rose Prader.  He was predeceased by his wife Helyn, sister Gaynor, and brother Christopher.

For the past 20 years he has been married to Anna Don whose family has embraced him as their father. This family includes Drs. Michael (Sandy) Don, Norman (Tricia) Don and Damon (Kacy) Don. The Don grandchildren he leaves are Lindsay, Kristin, Colin, Abby, Tony and Ben.

He graduated from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, before coming to the United States and earning his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.  He joined Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1964, carrying out research on nearly all objects that fall under “planetary science.”  He was particularly interested in the origin and evolution of planetary systems and had a special affinity for comets.  He was also a leader of the planetary community, most notably as the imaging team leader for the NASA Galileo mission to Jupiter, and as chair of the first National Research Council Decadal Survey of Solar System Exploration.

For his contributions to the exploration of the solar system, an asteroid was designated 3498 Belton by the International Astronomical Union, and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society awarded him the prestigious Gerard P. Kuiper Prize.

Dr. Belton retired from Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2000 and was declared Emeritus Astronomer.  Soon after, he founded Belton Space Exploration Initiatives, LLC, and continued his research in planetary science. Throughout his career he published in excess of 350 papers.   To the young astronomers who worked with him on his many projects he was a mentor who unselfishly encouraged their professional growth.   He was an engaging, interested and positive colleague; an out-of-the-box thinker who could contemplate further than many others. He was a visionary in the truest sense.

 

A memorial for Dr. Belton will be held Saturday, June 30, at 10:30 a.m., at the Gerard Kuiper Space Sciences Building on the campus of the University of Arizona. Those who wish to continue his efforts in planetary science may make a contribution to the Planetary Science Institute, 1700 East Ft. Lowell, Suite 106, Tucson, AZ 85719, or go online to www.psi.edu.