2023 National Space Society Awards

Wernher von Braun Memorial Award

Karlton Johnson, Chair of the NSS Board of Governors, hands the von Braun award to Eric Smith, program scientist for the James Webb Telescope Team. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

The National Space Society (NSS) proudly presented the 2023 Wernher von Braun Memorial Award to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s science team. Accepting the award was Dr. Eric Smith, the Associate Director for Research in the Science Mission Directorate’s Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters and Program Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Dr. Smith is the NASA scientist responsible for the Webb science content and is also responsible for monitoring and managing the science program for both the Webb Telescope and Hubble, ensuring their missions remain viable and true to NASA strategic objectives.

“On behalf of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team, we are honored by this prestigious award,” said Dr. Smith. “Webb has exceeded all expectations and captured awe-inspiring images and amazing spectra of the distant universe, objects in our solar system and everything in between that will inspire generations to come.”

Space Pioneer Awards

NSS Vice President of Space Development Greg Autry presents NSS Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurship to Jared Isaacman at ISDC. CREDIT: Daniel Fox/NSS.

Jared Isaacman was awarded the 2023 NSS Space Pioneer Award for Entrepreneurship. Isaacman was the prime mover behind the Inspiration4 orbital flight aboard a SpaceX Dragon Capsule in 2021. Founder of the successful Shift4 Payments company, he is a life-long space enthusiast and dedicated the Inspiration4 flight to the nonprofit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The other participants in the flight were selected from St. Jude’s staff and by a national lottery, and included St. Jude employee Haley Arceneaux, data engineer Chris Sembroski, and mission pilot Sian Proctor. It was the first-ever commercial spaceflight completed entirely by private astronauts.

Pascal Lee

Dr. Pascal Lee received the 2023 NSS Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. Dr. Lee is a Planetary Scientist at the SETI institute, Co-founder and Chairman of the Mars Institute, and Director of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) at the NASA Ames Research Center. The HMP is a Moon and Mars analog field research project and base on Devon Island in the Arctic.

Recently Lee and a team of research associates discovered a “relict” glacier near the Martian equator, the first such landform to be noted in the equatorial region. “If this relict glacier still has water ice, or is indicative of other formations near the Martian equator that do, this finding could be vitally important for future human missions to Mars,” Lee notes. “Mars’ equatorial regions present us with some of the most scientifically exciting and spectacular parts of the planet. They are also easier to reach and present warmer temperatures. If there’s accessible water ice there—a critical resource for future explorers—it could make exploring Mars much easier for humans.”

Other Awards

Michele Hanlon won the 2023 Chris Pancratz Space Activist of the Year Award. A former President of NSS, Michelle is a Co-Director of the Center for Air and Space Law and an instructor of aviation and space law at the University of Mississippi School of Law. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Space Law, the oldest Journal in the world devoted to analyzing the legal problems arising out of human activities in space. Michelle received her B.A. in Political Science from Yale College and her J.D. magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center. She earned her LL.M in Air and Space Law from McGill University where the focus of her research was commercial space and the intersection of commerce and public law.