A planetary scientist, Behar worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working to discover life in “extreme” conditions. On Earth, he looked for — and found — living things in the most unusual places, like volcanic vents and the deepest parts of the ocean. He helped prove that Mars once had lots of water — a requirement for life as we know it. He specialized in robotics, because it required proficiency in multiple fields. He designed an instrument for the Mars rover, Curiosity. In addition to his 23 years at JPL, he was a research professor at Arizona State University, and directed ASU’s Extreme Environments Robotics and Instrumentation Laboratory. Dr. Behar, an experienced pilot and flight instructor, crashed on takeoff from Van Nuys airport — one of the busiest airports for private aircraft in Southern California. He was killed on impact into a busy intersection, but managed to avoid injuring anyone on the ground. He was 47.
From This is True for 11 January 2015