During his forty-year career at NASA, Ed Prior authored/co-authored over sixty-five research reports, presentations or journal articles. He was co-discoverer of the “Winter Helium Bulge”, called “the most striking recent result concerning composition of the upper atmosphere” in one of his six references in the publication "Significant Achievements in Space Science". The discovery led to various NASA awards/accolades.
Prior’s beloved wife of 51 years, Margaret McCutchen Prior, passed away in 2020. Their son James, his wife Rachel Ip, their son Mack, and their dog Dominno live in North Carolina.
Since Prior's retirement, New Scientist magazine published his views concerning life on Mars (11 June 2011, p. 30; 27 July 2013, p. 32), his prediction of the maximum number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy using NASA's Kepler data (14 December 2013, p. 33) and several other letters including his 2017 theory that high energy solar particles or radiation could play a role in the simultaneous lightning phenomena seen all over the globe by ISS astronauts. More recently, the magazine published his concerns on whether chimpanzees’ remarkable use of tools can survive mankind’s disruptions of their environment (8 May 2019, p. 27). In August 2020, Prior also gave a talk on NASA's Explorer Satellite Program.
Prior’s interest in the process that created the “Shroud of Turin” image resulted in his co-authoring several articles on the mysterious cloth, which he viewed (with Barrie Schwortz, Shroud photographer) at a recent Turin Exhibition. Prior has given Shroud presentations in Europe and America on scientific theories about the image creation. He is cited in the 2021 report "The Most Notable Figures in Shroud of Turin Research of the 20th and 21st Centuries" by Joe Marino. As a result of his interest in the owner of the True Shroud---Joseph of Arimathea---Prior did extensive research on legends about him, including the traditions that he fled Judea to escape the Sanhedrin's retaliation for his assumed role in Jesus' disappearance. He was invited to both write a 25-page chapter ("Joseph of Arimathea---Mystery Man of the Gospels") for a book by well-known British author Juliet Faith and give presentations about Joseph at Glastonbury, where he is the patron saint. In a review by Clive Prince in the "Magonia Review of Books" of two books about Joseph, Prince wrote, "Faith includes an article by Ed Prior…this is by far the best part of the book (in fact, of both books), as it is grounded in proper historical analysis and deduction."
Prior has also studied the strange meeting between Jesus and a disturbed man named "Legion" that occurred on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (AKA "Swine Miracle") according to several of the gospels. This event is traditionally assumed to have happened near the town of Kursi. Prior concluded that the meeting actually happened at the town of Hippos/Sussita. After reviewing Prior's theory, Professor Mark Schuler, Co-Director of the American Excavation Team in Hippos, responded: “While a definitive answer is not possible, the following indicators are in the favor of Hippos/Sussita: Hippos is a polis---that technical language is used by gospel writers for the town from which the man with the name "Legion" came; a significant necropolis borders the main road into Hippos, aligning with the setting of the story; the bone profile of the site includes pigs (although these samples are from later periods); Hippos is more proximate to the sea than Gadara or Jerash; and, finally, Hippos is bordered to the north by a deep valley that could be the abyss mentioned in Luke 8:31." In a Biblewalks.com blog post, Dr. Schuler stated “Several weeks later we received a letter from Excavation Co-Director Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the University of Haifa. He recommended to review the site. Following his advice, we visited the site, one of the most important archaeological sites in the area. Our conclusion - Ed’s theory of the (Hippos) location seems indeed to match the characteristics of the site.” (Note: Prior has no archaeological training and has never been to Israel).
After working with six Chief Scientists for ten years, Prior became Deputy Director for Education (and later Acting Director), responsible for K-12, high school and college student programs (such as Dr. Massenberg’s LARSS) as well as postdoctoral fellowships and graduate student research opportunities at Langley. Production Supervisor for the TV show "The Idea That Nobody Wanted" about friend and fellow Illinois alum Dr. Houbolt's work on LOR. He received a Special Achievement Award and a Group Achievement Award for his role in education and distance learning. For the 2004 TV show "The Case of the Galactic Vacation," technical script consultant/actor ("Moon Guy" describing Apollo discoveries)---seen by over ten million classroom students across the globe, show won Emmy Award for Education---Prior’s last of nearly 40 years at NASA.
Prior worked on Center programs such as the Director’s Discretionary Fund (he often chaired the DDF Selection Committee meetings), SBIR (he represented LaRC at every SBIR Hdqrs meeting, consistently receiving more SBIR funding than any other Center), IRAD, Peer Reviews, ICASE (former ICASE Director Voigt wrote “Prior was most responsible for the success of ICASE after founder John Duberg), JIAFS and special assignments from Chief Scientists or the Director; he served as Acting Chief Scientist of NASA Langley for 8 months during the 1981-82 illness of the Chief Scientist (Dr. Frank Hohl); technical editor/compiler of the Langley Test Highlights Report for 8 years and the Langley Annual R&T Report for 18 consecutive years (at the request of the Chief Scientist, he continued with the publication for 8 more years after leaving that office), it received Award of Merit for Langley from Society for Technical Communications---perfect scores for “clarity, readability, editing, content, scope, style and fitting the audience.” Both reports were distributed by OAST to congressional staffers, OMB, and OSTP. The 1993 publication was first annual report from any federal lab to be posted on the Internet. At Jerry South’s request, he also compiled and edited a “CFD at Langley” widely distributed brochure which Jerry and Dick Barnwell highly praised.
NASA Headquarters selected Prior to be Co-Investigator on Pioneer Venus Orbiter Drag Experiment (and was the Langley spokesperson for the mission on CBS-TV and ABC-TV), served as a consultant for Dr. Joel S. Levine’s Langley team that developed the Mars Viking Engineering atmospheric model, and Dr. Levine invited him to co-author a journal article on Martian helium.
After NASA Langley Center Director Don Hearth unexpectedly terminated Space Science following the Scout Rocket's DAD satellite launch failure, Prior (Project Scientist of the ill-fated 240 man-year DAD mission) began studying ozone in the stratosphere (Geophysical Research Letters, June ‘78) and troposphere (Environmental Science and Technology, April ‘81). His comparisons of stratospheric ozone measurement techniques concluded “All methods experience greater inaccuracy for differing reasons at high winter latitudes, where our knowledge of ozone variations is therefore most uncertain,” in his published abstract at the 1977 Conference on Sensing Environmental Pollutants and in his GRL journal article. Despite Prior's explicit warning better ozone data was needed in that region, another seven years would pass before a British team using ground-based Dobson spectrophotometer found dangerously low stratospheric ozone at high winter latitudes in the southern hemisphere---the “Ozone Hole” ---and serious world-wide efforts to curb chlorofluorocarbon emissions finally began. After Prior’s ozone research highlighted our lack of knowledge about its stratospheric variations in that region (later cited in the 1996 COSPAR International Reference Atmosphere), he was among a select group of 20 atmospheric scientists invited to a 2-day international conference in 1977 (Boulder Colorado) by the US government to “detail the nature of ozone trend detection.” His EST troposphere ozone pollution predictive model was honored by American Chemical Society as a “highlighted research paper of the past” during “National Chemistry Week” in 2003--- twenty-two years after its publication, the only selection between 1980-1998. The ozone modeling scheme has been examined by others for modeling ozone variations in Europe, Canada, and our Great Smokey Mountains. He also presented (at 1978 AGU Conference) an early statistical study of global temperature variation over time, searching for global warming (EOS, 59, 294-1978). Prior served on UN Earthwatch Task Force during his NASA Headquarters tenure as Troposphere Research Manager (1980) where he negotiated joint atmospheric research programs with the EPA and the NSF. He is one of few to publish peer-reviewed research on earth’s troposphere, stratosphere, thermosphere and the highest altitude exosphere. He was cited in The Stratosphere: Past and Present, The Stratosphere: Present and Future (NASA Reference Publication 1049), the U.S. National Report on Geodesy, and he is cited six times in three annual editions of Significant Achievements in Space Science.
Principal Investigator for Langley’s PAGEOS satellite, found hydrogen concentrations in exosphere 200% greater than US Standard Atmosphere, a result disputed (even by Prior’s NASA Manager) until Air Force confirmation 36 years later and now used in the AF Space Command atmospheric model for satellite and missile drag calculations, the 2008 COSPAR International Reference Atmosphere, and NASA Goddard’s Brinton-Mayr thermospheric model among others; National Academy of Sciences’ Space Science Board reported in its “1970 Report to COSPAR” as the first highlight in the “Spacecraft Tracking” category that “Prior of NASA Langley isolated, for the first time, the orbital perturbations due to earth albedo radiation pressure” using PAGEOS orbital data; co-discoverer of the Winter Helium Bulge (with G. Keating) using Air Density Explorer drag data, called "the most striking recent result" in "Significant Achievements in Space Science", which cited six of Prior’s co-authored papers in three different editions. The Helium discovery received “NASA Special Service Award for Scientific Achievement,” and led to his co-authoring NASA Reid "Best Paper," receiving NASA Exceptional Service Medal, University of Illinois "Professional and Community Service Award” among others. He has collaborated with colleagues in space science research at Leningrad University, Bombay’s Indian Institute of Technology, and presented the first results from the ESRO-IV German satellite at the 1975 Bulgaria COSPAR meeting (at the request of the Principal Investigator Dr von Zahn).
"U of I on US Air Force recognizing alumni Ed Prior's research"
"Interviewed for the NASA Stories of Apollo documentary"
"Fielding space science questions from around the World"
"Liason to Jackie Chan during his visit in 2000 to NASA Langley"
"With Dr. Sam Massenberg and friends at NASA"