Squyres Receives 2012 Whipple Award

Steven Squyres received the 2012 Whipple Award at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.


SquyresThe Whipple Award is the highest honor given by the AGU Planetary Sciences section. The award is named for Fred Whipple, a gifted space scientist most noted for his work on understanding comets.

I’m very pleased that our award winner this year is Dr. Steven Squyres. Steve serves as the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell. He has been involved, at some level, with many of the most exciting planetary missions we’ve flown, including Voyager, Magellan, Cassini, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and, of course, as principal investigator for the science payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers Project, with its two Energizer Bunny rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Steve’s work has focused on Mars and the moons of the outer planets. He is best known for research on the study of water on Mars and of a possible ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa. He has also served as an “aquanaut” on two NASA NEEMO missions (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), spending many days underwater in a habitat designed to advance our understanding of challenges faced in human exploration beyond Earth.

Steve’s service to our community is extensive and well known. He chaired the most recent planetary decadal survey for the National Research Council. He is currently the chair of the NASA Advisory Council. His past honors include the American Astronomical Society’s Harold C. Urey Prize, the Space Science Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Astronautical Society’s Carl Sagan Award, the National Space Society’s Wernher von Braun Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In summary, to borrow from his nomination letter, Steve excels in all key criteria for a Whipple Award recipient. He has propagated planetary science by testing old paradigms and creating new ones, by prolificacy in publications, by engaging the public, by guiding the next generation of planetary scientists, and by leading the planetary science community.
Congratulations to Steve Squyres, winner of the 2012 AGU Whipple Award.

—LAURIE A. LESHIN, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Loudonville, N. Y.


I started down this road a long time ago, and I’ve had the good fortune to be guided by many people along the way. Joe Veverka was my advisor in grad school, and he taught me both how to do science and, by his example, how to be a generous mentor and colleague. Joe was last year’s recipient of the Whipple Award, and in a lovely twist, Joe’s advisor when he was in grad school was none other than Fred Whipple himself. So I dedicate this to my academic father and my academic grandfather.

Over the years I’ve gotten to work with some of the best in the business on a number of NASA flight projects. As a brand-new grad student working on the Voyager project, I decided that Larry Soderblom was the guy I wanted to be like when I grew up. I’m still working on that one. Ray Arvidson has been my partner and friend through all the years that we’ve worked on Spirit and Opportunity, from the very beginning right up to yestersol. And, of course, the rover science is the product of the whole Athena science team, more than a hundred scientists whom I’m very proud to be one of.

Finally, we scientists sometimes have a tendency to forget about the people who make what we do possible—the engineers who build our instruments and our spacecraft. All the science done by the Mars Exploration rovers was made possible by people like Pete Theisinger, Richard Cook, Matt Wallace, my good friend Barry Goldstein, and literally thousands of others. I am deeply in their debt, as are we all.

—STEVEN W. SQUYRES, Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y.