Top Canadian space scientist Dr. Ahmed Mahmood passes away


Achievements include developing data management policies for Canadian satellites like Radarsat-1, Radarsat-2, SCISAT and Space-based disaster management system for the UN. He has published 40 journal articles and authored many technical reports during his professional career.

It is with tremendous sadness that the family announces the unexpected passing of Dr. Ahmed Mahmood (Choudri) on August 16, 2019, at the age of 72. He was a family man who will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by his wife of 43 years, Zahida; his children Najia (Stephen Crawford) and Sadia; his granddaughters Farah and Sophia; his brother and sister-in-law, Masud and Uzma Choudri; his nieces Maryam and Aisha. He was predeceased by his beloved sister Bushra, who passed away only a month prior. He will also be remembered fondly by a large extended family, as well as friends and colleagues from around the world.

Dr. Mahmood was a very humble, gentle man with high ethics. He valued integrity, kindness and honesty. He had recently retired as one of the chief space scientists at the Canadian Space Agency after 24 years of service. Throughout his career, he gave back significantly to Canada and to the international space community.

Dr. Mahmood had been with the Satellite Operations and Ground Infrastructure Directorate of the Canadian Space Agency almost since its creation in 1993 and the start of the RADARSAT Program. First, as SAR Data Manager, he introduced and developed baseline data acquisition methodologies and data policies of RADARSAT-1, Canada’s first Earth Observation and the world’s first multi-mode radar imaging satellite. He also created and implemented RADARSAT-1 data utilization strategies.

Then, as Manager Missions, his most recent position in the Canadian Public Service, he took over the responsibility of multi-mission data management, including RADARSAT-1, its successor RADARSAT-2, and SCISAT.

In early 2000, he pioneered space-based disaster management system concepts under a United Nations Action Team sponsored by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN OOSA) in Vienna, which resulted in the creation of the current UN disaster management network called UN-SPIDER.

He went on to spearhead the implementation of the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters,” the world’s premier multi-satellite system of data acquisition for emergency response. He built the Charter’s operational architecture, its policies and procedures, as well as a network of interfaces among its 17 member agencies and a large number of external partners. Dr. Mahmood travelled frequently to teach and train at international space agencies, representing Canada and its impressive space program.

Before joining the Canadian government in 1991, Dr. Mahmood was Professor of Geology and taught at the Moroccan National School of Mining Engineering for six years. His past assignments also include teaching positions in universities in South Asia and West Africa. He served for a number of years as State Geologist with the government of Morocco.

Dr. Mahmood’s high level of intelligence was apparent from a very early age. He skipped two grades in primary school, received several scholarships, and was the recipient of a gold medal from the Pakistani government for his Master of Science.

He then went to Poland to complete his first PhD (Doctor of Sciences), specializing in geology. A few years later, while working, he completed his second PhD (Doctorat d’État) from the University of Clermont in France, with specialization in mineralogy and petrology, and a strong input of field mapping by means of aerial and space imagery. He published 40 refereed journal articles, numerous conference papers and book chapters. He also authored many technical reports during his professional career.

Dr. Mahmood spoke five languages and was an encyclopedia of knowledge. His skills and accomplishments are too many to name. Of all his outstanding achievements, he was most proud of his wife and having together raised two strong, independent and educated daughters. May his soul rest in peace. He will never be forgotten.