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National Award of Nuclear Science & History

The National Award of Nuclear Science and History is presented annually by National Atomic Museum Foundation to a prominent person or organization that has had an impact on nuclear issues.  The award celebrates the wide scope of achievement and commitment to furthering scientific endeavor made by individuals in areas of military leadership, medical technology, public policy and government, energy sciences, education and space exploration. 

On March 31, 2018, Dr. Alan Stern, will receive the 21st Annual Award of Nuclear Science and History.

Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant and author. He leads NASA’s $880M New Horizons mission that successfully explored the Pluto system and is now exploring the Kuiper Belt—the farthest exploration in the history of humankind.

In both 2007 and 2016, he was named to the Time 100 list. In 2007 and 2008, Dr. Stern served as NASA’s chief of all space and Earth science programs, directing a $4.4B organization with 93 separate flight missions and a program of over 3,000 research grants. During his NASA tenure, a record 10 major new flight projects were started and deep reforms of NASA’s scientific research and the education and public outreach programs were put in place. His tenure was notable for an emphasis on cost control in NASA flight missions that resulted in a 63% decrease in cost overruns.

Since 2008, Dr. Stern has had his own aerospace consulting practice. His current and former consulting clients include Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Naveen Jain’s Moon Express Google Lunar X-Prize team, Ball Aerospace, Paragon Space Development Corporation, the NASTAR Center, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the Johns Hopkins University.

Since 2009, he has been an Associate Vice President and Special Assistant to the President at the Southwest Research Institute. Additionally, from 2008-2012 he served on the board of directors of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and as the Chief Scientist and Mission Architect for Moon Express from 2010-2013. From 2011-2013 he served as the Director of the Florida Space Institute. Dr. Stern is a founder and serves as the Chief Science Officer of World View, a near-space ballooning company that he is co-founder of. In 2016 and again in 2017 he was elected to be the Board Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Dr. Stern is also the CEO of a small corporation—The Golden Spike Company.

His career has taken him to numerous astronomical observatories, to the South Pole, and to the upper atmosphere aboard various high performance NASA aircraft including F/A-18 Hornets,

F-104 Starfighters, KC-135 Zero-G and WB-57 Canberras. He has been involved as a researcher in 29 suborbital, orbital, and planetary space missions, including 14 for which he was a principle investigator; and he has led the development of 8 scientific instruments for NASA space missions. In 1995, he was selected as a Space Shuttle Mission Specialist finalist and in 1996 he was a candidate Space Shuttle Payload Specialist. In 2010, he became a suborbital payload specialist trainee, and is expected to fly several suborbital space missions aboard Virgin Galactic vehicles in 2019-2020.

Before receiving his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1989, Dr. Stern completed twin masters degrees in aerospace engineering and atmospheric sciences (1980 and 1981), and then spent six years as an aerospace systems engineer, concentrating on spacecraft and payload systems at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Martin Marietta Aerospace, and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. His two undergraduate degrees are in physics and astronomy from the University of Texas (1978 and 1980). Dr. Stern has published over 280 technical papers and 40 popular articles. He has given over 400 technical talks and over 200 popular lectures and speeches about astronomy and the space program. He has written two books, The U.S. Space Program After Challenger (Franklin- Watts, 1987), and Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System (Wiley 1997, 2005). Additionally, he has served as editor on three technical volumes, and three collections of scientific popularizations: Our Worlds (Cambridge, 1998), Our Universe (Cambridge, 2000), and Worlds Beyond (Cambridge, 2003). In 2018 his new book with coauthor David Grinspoon, Chasing New Horizons (Picador Press) will be released.

Dr. Stern has over 30 years of experience in space instrument development, with a strong concentration in ultraviolet technologies. He has been a Principal Investigator (PI) in NASA's UV sounding rocket program, and was the project scientist on a Shuttle-deployable SPARTAN astronomical satellite. He was the PI of the advanced, miniaturized HIPPS Pluto breadboard camera/IR spectrometer/UV spectrometer payload. Dr. Stern is also the PI of the Alice UV Spectrometer for the ESA/NASA Rosetta comet orbiter, launched in 2004, and served as the PI of the LAMP instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which launched in 2009. He has served as a Co-Investigator on numerous NASA and ESA planetary missions.

Dr. Stern's academic research has focused on studies of our solar system's Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, comets, the satellites of the outer planets, the Pluto system, and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars. He has also worked on spacecraft rendezvous theory, terrestrial polar mesospheric clouds, galactic astrophysics and studies of tenuous satellite atmospheres, including the atmosphere of the moon.

Dr. Stern is a fellow of the AAAS, the Royal Astronomical Society, The Explorer’s Club and is a member of the AIAA, AAS, IAF, and the AGU; he was elected incoming chair of the Division of Planetary Sciences in 2006. In was awarded the 2006 Von Braun Aerospace Achievement Award of the National Space Society, the 2007 University of Colorado George Norlin Distinguished Alumnus Award, the 2009 St. Mark’s Preparatory School Distinguished Alumnus Award, Smithsonian Magazine’s 2015 American Ingenuity Award, the 2016 Sagan Memorial Award of the American Astronautical Society, the 2016 Cosmos Award of The Planetary Society, the 2016 NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, its highest civilian award and the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award of the College of Natural Sciences of the University of Texas.

Dr. Stern's personal interests include running, hiking, camping and writing. He is an instrument-rated commercial pilot and flight instructor, with both powered and sailplane ratings. He and his wife Carole have two daughters and a son; they make their home near Boulder, Colorado.


Honorees become members of the International Advisory Council to the museum. Past honorees include:

1998: Dr. Glenn Seaborg, former head of AEC, co-discoverer of Plutonium and medical and nuclear researcher. Dr. Seaborg provided the initiation of this award and granted permission for his name to be used for the entry level Einstein Society membership category.

1999: Robert Henderson, Participant in the Manhattan Project and was an early Sandia Laboratory leader and prominent scientist who also received an academy award for innovations in lighting design.

2000: Gen. Paul W. Tibbetts was the Military Colonel responsible for operations of the 509th Composite Group and pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped first atomic bomb ending WWII.

2001: Dr. David Kuhl, was inventor of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) a medical scanning technology that lead to broad application of nuclear medical imaging technology.

2002: Sen. Harrison (Jack) Schmitt, honored as the last man to walk on the moon serving as an astronaut on Apollo 17. The Senator was also honored for dealing with arms control treaties and international nuclear proliferation policy.

2003: Dr. Andrew Kadak, honored for work as a prominent senior educator in nuclear engineering practices at the university level leading students to design nuclear power plants that will compete in tomorrow’s world.

2004: Dr. Ines Triay, was honored for community involvement, communication, policy and scientific work with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant project. Dr. Triay was the first woman recipient of the award.

2005: Ambassador C. Paul Robinson, will be honored for work as the leader of Sandia National Labs, for impact on international nuclear non-proliferation accords and involvement in worldwide nuclear energy policy.

2006: Dr. Albert Ghiroso, discoverer or co-discoverer of 12 elements in the Actinide elements in the Periodic Table. Dr. Ghiroso currently works at Lawrence Livermore lab as an emeritus professor; his past activities with notable scientists include work with Dr. Glenn Seaborg and support of early atomic weapon testing verification by USSR.

2007: Mr. Richard Rhodes was honored as historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Making the Atomic Bomb,” later books such as “Dark Sun” and “Arsenals of Folly.”

2008: Senator Pete V. Domenici was honored for his steadfast support of the nuclear power industry as well as support of the national labs and his stance on STEM education. The Senator as been a major supporter of the Museum.

2009: Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace and served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International. Dr. Moore currently serves as Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., a consultancy focusing on environmental policy and communications in forestry, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, mining, biodiversity, chemicals, energy and climate change.

2010: Murray Gell-Mann, Ph.D., Nobel Prize Laureate. Gell-Mann is one of today’s most prominent scientists.  He is currently Distinguished Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute as well as the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, where he joined the faculty in 1955.  In 1969 he received the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He is the author of The Quark and the Jaguar, published in 1994, in which his ideas on simplicity and complexity are presented to a general readership.

2011: Dr. Helmut Engelbrecht, Chief Executive Officer of URENCO Ltd., a world leader in uranium enrichment technology and in the supply of uranium enrichment services, was the first industrialist and the first foreign citizen to receive the National Award for Nuclear Science & History.

2012: Dr. Lisa Randall is an American theoretical physicist and a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology. She is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University, where she works on several of the competing models of string theory in the quest to explain the fabric of the universe. Her most well-known contribution to the field is the Randall-Sundrum model, first published in 1999 with Raman Sundrum.

2013: Admiral Kirkland H. Donald of the US Navy served as the Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion and Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration's Naval Reactors from November 2004 to November 2012. He previously served as Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Commander, Submarine Allied Command, Atlantic. He retired from the U.S. Navy on January 1, 2013, completing over 37 years of dedicated service. 

2014: Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is one of America’s largest producers of electricity. As a leading U.S. producer of clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and is a licensed operator of three nuclear generating plants. The company received the 2012 Edison Award from the Edison Electric Institute for it leadership in new nuclear development and is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune’s annual World’s Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings.

2015: Gwyneth Cravens, author and environmentalist, wrote Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy. She has also written about her pro-nuclear stance, appearning in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine and Discover. She has also appeared as one of the environmental thinkers of “CNN Films: Pandora’s Promise.” 

2016: Barry A. Siegel, M.D. is currently Professor of Radiology and Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, Director of the Division of Nuclear Medicine at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, and a member of the University’s Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

2017: U.S. Women in Nuclear is the premier network of over 8,000 women and men who work in nuclear- and radiation-related fields around the country. The membership includes professionals in various nuclear-related fields including Chief Nuclear Officers, reactor operators, engineers, researchers, health physicists, human resource professionals, nuclear communications professionals, policy makers, and lawyers in the nuclear industry to name a few. 

The Einstein Society Gala is the largest fundraising event for the Museum each year. The evening includes dinner and dancing as well as a silent auction. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational programs. For more information, see the information here.

"Science is Everywhere" Winter Camp - December 27-28 and January 2-4

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will host "Science is Everywhere" Winter Day Camp 2018 for children who Pre-K through 7th grade. Experience the wonders of science in one-day sessions, December 27-28 and January 2-4. Sessions include "Code of the Robot, Jr.," "Mini Marvels," "Mysteries of Matter" "Unravel the Code" and many more!

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Veterans Day - November 11

In recognition of this United States holiday honoring military veterans, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will be offering free admission on November 11, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to all service members, both past and present, who show military identification.

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Nuclear Science Week - October 15-19

Nuclear Science Week (NSW) is an international, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus local, regional, national and international interest on all aspects of nuclear science. The NSW Big Event will be taking place here in Albuquerque, October 15-19, and many of the events are open to the public! Join us for this exceptional event!

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