New Horizons Team Receives 2016 Goddard Trophy

This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

WASHINGTON, DC  (National Space Club PR) — The National Space Club is pleased to announce The New Horizons Pluto mission team has won the 2016 Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Club’s highest honor given annually to the individual or team who has provided leadership in ground breaking space and aeronautics capability to the USA. The Award will be presented at the 59th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, taking place at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Friday, March 11, 2016.

The New Horizons mission is honored for helping us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the Pluto system, and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation.

New Horizons launched on January 19, 2006; the spacecraft swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and conducted a six-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015, culminating with Pluto closest approach on July 14, 2015. As part of an extended mission, pending NASA approval, the spacecraft is expected to head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine an ancient building block of small planets like Pluto on January 1, 2019, more than a billion miles beyond Pluto.

Sending a spacecraft on this long journey is helping us answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres on these bodies. It also completed the historic era of first reconnaissance of the solar system begun in the 1960s. The United States, through NASA, was first to reconnoiter all of the original 9 planets in this historic quest, which stretched from the first reconnaissance of Venus by Mariner 2 in 1962 to the first reconnaissance of Pluto by New Horizons in 2015.

The National Academy of Sciences has ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt – including Pluto – as the highest priority for solar system exploration. Generally, New Horizons seeks to understand where Pluto and its moons “fit in” with the other objects in the solar system, such as the inner rocky planets (Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury) and the outer gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, belong to a third category of planets in our solar system — the dwarfs. They have solid surfaces and are like the terrestrial planets, most are primarily made of rock, though they typically also contain significant portions of ice. As revealed by the astronomical exploration of the Kuiper Belt, the dwarf planets are more numerous than all of the terrestrial and giant planets combined.

A close-up look at these worlds from a spacecraft promises to tell an incredible story about the origins and outskirts of our solar system. New Horizons is exploring – for the first time – how small planets like Pluto and Kuiper Belt bodies have evolved over time.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, is the principal investigator. SwRI is responsible for science payload operations, data reduction and archiving, and leads the science team; as the PI institution of this PI-led mission, SwRI is also responsible through the PI to NASA for the entire mission.

The mission team also includes KinetX, Inc. (navigation team), Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin Corporation, the University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy and a number of other firms, NASA centers and university partners. NASA’s New Horizons mission is part of the New Frontiers Program
managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Dr. Stern will accept the Goddard Trophy on behalf of the New Horizons project. at the 59th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner on Friday, March 11, 2016, at the Washington Hilton. Individuals and organizations interested in attending may find more information on our website www.spaceclub.org. For specific questions please contact NSCF at info@spaceclub.org or by calling 202-547-0060.

The National Space Club and Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to fostering excellence in space activity through interaction between industry and government, and through a continuing program of educational support. Awards are offered to recognize significant achievements in space science and enterprise. Scholarships and other education support are a major focus of Club activity

  • Vladislaw

    Congrats to the team on the award.

  • TimR

    Truly a remarkable feat of planning and execution that captured so well the image and properties of a binary planetary system. Decades of work, checking and rechecking. The results are astounding. All in a single fast flyby. Pluto & Charon are truly a remarkable binary system, one of a kind in our Solar System. Well deserved award!

  • Thank you for not caving to IAU pressure and accurately affirming that our solar system has a third zone of small planets that includes Pluto. We need more of this independent thinking in coverage of our solar system!

  • therealdmt

    This may have been my favorite planetary mission since Voyager 2’s Neptune flyby. Any more first encounters will have to be of less familiar objects, things I didn’t grow up wondering about except in vague terms such as ‘Kuiper Belt’, ‘Jupiter Trojans’, and ‘Oort Cloud’. I won’t live to see a probe launch to Alpha Centauri, and even if I did, I definitely wouldn’t live to see the results.

    Actually somewhat in order, my other favorites (ones I followed closely and had the results spark my imagination) would be:

    Mars Pathfinder w/ Sojourner rover
    Mars Reconnasance Orbiter
    The Spirit & Opportunity Mars rovers

    Galileo/Jupiter probe
    Cassini with the Huygens Titan lander

    NEAR-Shoemaker with its Eros asteroid flyby and later orbit, plus Mathilde
    Rosetta/Philae with the comet rendezvous and landing