Newsletter 12-14

Issue12-14, June 18th 2012


So far, so good. Letters and e-mails from the DPS membership were very effective in getting the attention of Congress to restore the NASA planetary exploration budget. In April the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees added significant funding to the President’s budget request. Kudos also goes to the members DPS Committee and the Federal Relations Committee who made a record number of visits to Congressional offices in late May. Bipartisan support for planetary science was strongly in evidence in all our interactions. The Federal Relations Committee deserves thanks and congratulations for an outstanding job organizing these meetings and carrying our message to Capitol Hill.

We have made a lot of progress, but we are a long way from being out of the woods. This will be a complicated legislative year (it is a presidential election year after all) and we will probably need more e-mails and letters to Congress before the budget is finalized. This is a good time to write (a physical letter) thanking the members of the Appropriations Subcommittees for their support (their addresses can be found on the FRS contacting congress page public_policy/communicating-congress).

The longer-range challenge we have is the Administration in the form of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP). These organizations give NASA direction for future planning and that direction is currently requiring major budget cuts over the next five years. Planetary exploration requires multi-year planning and commitments. While Congress can give planetary exploration extra money on a year-by-year basis, the OMB five-year planning budget can hamstring NASA’s execution of any Congressionally-enhanced planetary program. The DPS will engage OMB and OSPT and push for five-year budget planning levels that can achieve the priority goals of the Decadal Survey.

I would also like to extend our congratulations to our Prize winners: Gerard P. Kuiper Prize: Darrell Strobel (Johns Hopkins); Harold C. Urey Prize: Alberto Fairen (SETI Institute); Carl Sagan Medal: Patrick Michel (Obs. de la Côte d’Azur); and Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Science Journalism Award: Michael Carroll (Free-Lance Journalist). In addition, the Harold Masursky Award is posthumously attributed to Susan Niebur (formerly of Niebur Consulting).

Well-deserved thanks go to the Prize Subcommittee for all their hard work!

Finally, please all remember to cast your vote in our DPS 2012 elections for the DPS committee Vice-Chair and members. To vote, go to .


The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce its 2012 prize winners:

– Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science:
Darrell Strobel received his undergraduate education at North Dakota State University where he graduated with honors in 1964. He moved on to Harvard where he completed a Masters in Physics in 1965 and was awarded a PhD in Applied Physics in 1969. After graduation he went to work at the Naval Research Lab rising to Head of the Atmospherics Dynamics Section which he led from 1976-1984. He joined Johns Hopkins University in 1984 where he is a Professor associated with both the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and the Physics & Astronomy Center for Astrophysical Sciences. He is a member of the DPS, AGU and the International Academy of Astronautics, and a Fellow of the IAU. He served as a co-investigator and science team lead for the Ultraviolet Spectrometer Experiment on Voyager, he is an Interdisciplinary Scientist for Aeronomy for the Cassini Mission and is a co-investigator on the New Horizons mission. He has served on numerous study groups and boards and has served as editor of several AGU publications and Icarus.

– Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in planetary research by a young scientist: Alberto Fairen is a research scientist at the SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe in Mountain View, California. He completed a Master dissertation at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in 2005 with a thesis on the “Inhibition of carbonate synthesis in extreme acidic environments: a comparative study of the martian aqueous environments and Rio Tinto”. In 2006 he received a Ph.D. with the dissertation “Dating possible biological processes on Mars according to the tectonic history and hydrogeological and geochemical evolution of the planet”. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Ames Research Center with Chris McKay before joining the SETI Institute.

– Harold Masursky Award for outstanding service to planetary science and exploration:
Susan Niebur started her advanced education with a BS in Physics, with high honors, from Georgia Tech in 1995. She followed with Masters and PhD degrees in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis with a thesis titled “Observation of Energy- Dependent Electron-Capture Decay in Galactic Cosmic Rays.” While still in graduate school she founded and led the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, dedicated to advocating for graduate and professional students nationwide. After receiving her PhD Susan went to NASA Headquarters where she was the Discovery Program Scientist until 2006. While at HQ she co-founded the Early Career Fellowships and Workshops for Planetary Scientists. In 2008, while running Niebur Consulting, she founded the Women in Planetary Science Project dedicated to community building and removing barriers to success. In 2007 Dr. Niebur learned that she had inflammatory breast cancer, a disease that eventually led to her death in February 2012. While fighting this disease, she continued to work to raise awareness and build community through her online blog, Toddler Planet. Her husband and two children, her family, and countless friends and acquaintances mourn her premature passing at the same time they continue to celebrate the gifts she left behind.

– Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public:
Patrick Michel is a planetary scientist who began his advanced education with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Space Techniques in 1993 whereafter he moved to the study of asteroids. He received his PhD in 1997 for a thesis titled “Dynamical evolution of Near-Earth Asteroids”. He has been a Permanent Researcher at CNRS where he leads the Lagrange Laboratory Planetology group. He is a co-chair of the MarcoPolo-R sample return mission science team and is a co-I on the OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa 2 missions. He has wide involvement in the IAU and other international organizations. In 2006 he received the “Young Researcher” prize from the French Society of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

– Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on planetary sciences:
Michael Carroll is a science journalist, astronomical artist, and children’s book author. He fell in love with the images returned to Earth from the Rangers, Lunas, and Surveyors, the Apollo astronauts, the Mariners, Vikings, and Voyagers, and began to paint these worlds at the age of 11. Michael has authored more than 20 books and many more articles in magazines such as Astronomy, Popular Science, Astronomy Now (UK), Sky & Telescope, Clubhouse, and Odyssey. In his winning entry, “Storm Warning” from Astronomy magazine’s August 2011 issue, Michael expertly explains weather phenomena that occur on the solar system’s planets in language that any “armchair astronomer” can understand. In recognition of his effort to promote planetary sciences in popular media, the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society is delighted to present the 2012 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to Michael Carroll.

The 2012 DPS prizes will be presented at the DPS meeting in Reno, Nevada, 14-19 October 2012.


The Kavli Prize in Astrophysics is shared between David C. Jewitt, University of California, USA, Jane X. Luu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory, USA, and Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology, USA. They received the prize “for discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system.”
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