2023 NASA Exploration Science Awards

NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) Awards recognize outstanding achievements in exploration science. Recipients have each made unique contributions to NASA’s human exploration efforts. SSERVI Award winners are nominated by their academic peers, recommended by a committee based at SSERVI’s central office, and selected by SSERVI leadership. The awards were presented along with invited lectures from the recipients at the 2023 NASA Exploration Science Forum (NESF) held on July 18–20, 2023.

Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award

The 2023 Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award is an annual award given to early-career scientists who have made significant contributions to the science or exploration communities. Recipients of the Susan M. Niebur Early Career Award are researchers who are no more than ten years from receiving their terminal degree, who have shown excellence in their field, and who have demonstrated meaningful contributions to the science or exploration communities. This year the award is presented to Drs. Kerri Donaldson Hanna and Julie Stopar.

Dr. Kerri Donaldson Hanna

Dr. Donaldson Hanna is a planetary geologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Central Florida (UCF). She received her B.S. in Space Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University. Dr. Donaldson Hanna was a postdoctoral researcher within the Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Planetary Physics sub-department at the University of Oxford and was awarded the early career Winton Capital Geophysics Award from the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dr. Donaldson Hanna’s research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of airless bodies like the Moon, Mercury, Mars’ moons, and asteroids. Dr. Donaldson Hanna is also interested in understanding the effects of particle size, porosity, albedo, and near surface conditions of airless bodies on their thermal infrared signature and how to best simulate these in the laboratory. She has participated in NASA missions, including as Co-Investigator on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment and as a Participating Scientist on OSIRIS-REx. Her laboratory measurements have provided numerous insights into the compositional diversity of the lunar crust, and the thermal emission spectroscopy of airless bodies in general. Dr. Donaldson Hanna is also an inspirational mentor for the next generation of planetary scientists, supervising undergraduate interns and master’s students, as well as numerous school outreach projects.

Dr. Julie Stopar

Dr. Stopar is a staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), where she leads research on lunar geology and surface evolution. Dr. Stopar researches lunar volcanic deposits, impact melt deposits, impact craters, regolith, and low-temperature interactions between minerals and liquid water throughout the solar system. She received a B.S. in Geological Science from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in Geological Science from University of Hawaii, and a Ph.D. in Geological Science from Arizona State University. She is a valued member of two SSERVI teams, the science lead for LPI’s Regional Planetary Image Facility, part of the coordination team for the LPI Summer Intern Program, and supervises multiple postdoctoral and undergraduate research projects.

Dr. Stopar has been part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team since 2007, before launch. She is a co-investigator for the LRO Camera team and a Mini-RF team member. She is active in several mission concepts for lunar exploration, having contributed to designs for a long-range rover, a robotic sample return, and a SmallSat lander.

Dr. Stopar exemplifies a commitment to service to the planetary science community through participation in several Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) action teams that provided a roadmap for science-driven exploration of the Moon. She co-developed the LPI Lunar South Pole Atlas, consisting of maps, images, and illustrations of the south polar region. She co-organized and led the LPI-LEAG 2017 Back to the Moon workshop, which helped provide a framework for upcoming lunar exploration.

Angioletta Coradini Mid-Career Award

The SSERVI Angioletta Coradini Mid-Career Award is given annually to a mid-career scientist for broad, lasting accomplishments related to SSERVI fields of interest. Angioletta Coradini (1946-2011) was an Italian planetary scientist who inspired astronomers and planetary scientists around the world. The 2023 Angioletta Coradini Mid-Career Award is given to Dr. Brett Denevi.

Dr. Brett Denevi

Dr. Denevi is a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory specializing in studies of the Moon, Mercury, and asteroids. She received her B.A. in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawaii. She’s an expert on the origin, composition, and evolution of planetary surfaces, focusing on volcanoes and crust formation on terrestrial bodies, the mineralogy and chemistry of planet surfaces, and space-weathering effects on airless bodies. Dr. Denevi has been involved in NASA mission and instrument teams at all phases and in roles including Deputy PI of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, Deputy Instrument Scientist of the Mercury Dual Imaging System, MESSENGER, as Participating Scientist of Dawn, and as Co-I of ShadowCam, Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter. She has worked on laboratory and in-flight calibration of multiple flight instruments and is experienced in operations, planning, and targeting (LROC, MESSENGER).

She also served on the Steering Committee for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey as Vice Chair for the Panel on the Moon and Mercury, which assessed key scientific questions in planetary science and astrobiology, identified priority medium- and large-class missions and other initiatives, and presented a comprehensive research strategy for the 2023-2032 timeframe for these solar system bodies. In 2014, Asteroid 9026 Denevi was named in her honor. Her contributions have been recognized by the Maryland Academy of Science outstanding young scientist award, a NASA Early Career Fellowship, and seven NASA group achievement awards.

Michael J. Wargo Exploration Science Award

The Michael J. Wargo Exploration Science Award is an annual award given to a scientist or engineer who has significantly contributed to the integration of exploration and planetary science throughout their career. The 2023 Michael J. Wargo Exploration Science Award is given to Dr. Ian Crawford.

Dr. Ian Crawford

Dr. Crawford is an Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Faculty of Math and Physical Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University College London and his M.Sc. in Geophysics and Planetary Physics from the University of Newcastle.

Dr. Crawford has contributed over 150 papers to scientific and professional journals on astronomy, planetary science, astrobiology, and space exploration, and his lunar science and exploration research has been hugely impactful – both the remote sensing work on the lunar surface and his laboratory analysis of lunar samples. His work with lunar samples has helped “ground truth” remote sensing data obtained from orbit to provide a better understanding of the geological evolution of the lunar crust and mantle.

Dr. Crawford came to planetary science from a career in astronomy, where he conducted studies of the interstellar medium and circumstellar disks thought to be planetary systems in the early stages of formation. He was a Co-Investigator on the Compact Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer instrument that orbited the Moon on ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft and was Science Team Chair for the X-Ray spectrometer that flew on India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission. These instruments provided compositional information about the lunar surface that is being used to constrain models of lunar evolution. Ian’s leadership has been recognized through his roles on the ESA Human Spaceflight and Exploration Science Advisory Committee (2014-2017) and the European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) of the European Science Foundation (2008-2015), among many others. In 2007 he was a member of the UK Space Exploration Working Group, which recommended increased UK involvement in global space exploration. He has long had an interest in the future of space exploration and is convinced that space exploration and development will prove to be of central importance for the future of humanity.

Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal

The Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal, named after American geologist and one of the founders of planetary science, Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997), is a lifetime achievement award given to a scientist who has significantly contributed to our understanding of the Moon and other small bodies in our solar system. The 2023 Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal is awarded to Dr. William (Bill) Feldman for significant scientific contributions throughout the course of his career.

Dr. William (Bill) Feldman

Dr. Feldman is a Senior Scientist Emeritus with the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and currently resides in New Mexico. Dr. Feldman earned a B.S. in Physics from MIT, a Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford, and was a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory before joining PSI. His areas of expertise include neutron detectors, spectroscopy, remote sensing, and space-based observing. It is hard to overstate the effect that Dr. Feldman has had on lunar science and planetary science as a whole; in addition to contributing to the discovery of water in the lunar polar regions, he nearly singlehandedly founded the field of planetary neutron spectroscopy and pioneered X-ray, gamma-ray, and neutron spectroscopic techniques. He has more than 20 years of experience in the analysis and interpretation of planetary albedo neutron data and more than 40 years of experience in the analysis and interpretation of solar wind and magnetospheric plasma data.

Dr. Feldman has held various mission roles (calibration/testing, data validation, instrument operations, instrument PI, mission Co-I, mission science team, etc.), for several NASA missions, including ACE, Dawn, Lunar Prospector, Mariner 10, Mars Observer, Mars Odyssey, MESSENGER, and Pioneer 10 and 11. He served as Chairman of the NASA Solar Probe Science Study Team between 1988 and 1995. He received a Los Alamos National Laboratory distinguished performance award in 1985, was named a Laboratory Fellow in 1987, was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1996, and is the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific papers in space physics research.

About SSERVI Exploration Science Awards

The SSERVI Exploration Science Awards range in scope from lifetime achievements to early career contributions in Exploration Science. Nominations from the community are strongly encouraged and are due on March 31 each year. Nominees do not need to reside in the U.S. or be a U.S. citizen, nor do they need to be a member of a SSERVI team. Any nominee who is not selected will automatically become a candidate for consideration the following two years if they still meet the award criteria. For more info on the awards and nomination criteria, visit https://sservi.nasa.gov/awards/.