It’s always satisfying when a truly deserving person is honored for an astonishing professional career. And so it was in Houston last week, when Dr. John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, was presented the National Space Trophy at the Houston Hyatt Regency. Those who know John “Short Round” Grunsfeld, a.k.a. “The Hubble Repairman,” know him as a modest and self-deprecating family man with a great love of the outdoors and mountaineering. But his career as a NASA astronaut, telescope repairman, astronomy scientist, and NASA associate administrator put him in a rarified atmosphere.
The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation was founded by the Space Center Rotary Club of Houston, Texas in 1985 to organize and coordinate an annual event to recognize outstanding achievements in space and create greater public awareness of the benefits of space exploration. Each year since 1987, the Foundation has presented the National Space Trophy and other awards honoring those who have contributed to our nation's space program at a gala event in April in Houston, Texas.
To those who bitch that this is a “Houston Event,” all I can say is build a bridge and get over it. Every event has to be somewhere, and it is to the credit of the business community in Houston that they had the vision for this event more than 30 years ago, and have pursued it with vigor ever since. In full disclosure, I am proud to confess that I serve on the national board of advisors for this annual gala, which does, indeed, draw participants and honorees from all across the country. I’m particularly proud that, in recent years, honorees winning the Stellar Awards, which recognize individual and team contributions to the state-of-the-art of space capability, have increasingly included military, industry, and so-called “new space” players. Indeed, seeing SpaceX and Blue Origin on stage as honorees along with NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital ATK and others, is a great demonstration of just how far the RNASA Gala and its award program has come.
If a person is known by the company they keep, then Dr. John Grunsfeld is in the best of company as our latest National Space Trophy winner. Here is the list of previous recipients:
2017 Dr. John Grunsfeld
2016 Dr. Charles Elachi
2015 Col. Robert D. Cabana
2014 NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden
2013 Hon. Kay Bailey Hutchison
2012 Capt. Michael L. Coats
2011 General Kevin P. Chilton, USAF (Ret.)
2010 William (Bill) H. Gerstenmaier
2009 Dr. Michael D. Griffin
2008 Capt. Eugene Cernan, USN (Ret.)
2007 Eugene F. "Gene" Kranz
2006 Col. Eileen M. Collins, USAF (Ret.)
2005 Dr. Glynn S. Lunney
2004 Neil A. Armstrong
2003 Roy S. Estess
2002 Dr. George E. Mueller
2001 Tommy Holloway
2000 Capt. John W. Young, USN (Ret.)
1999 Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr.
1998 President George H.W. Bush
1997 George W.S. Abbey
1996 Capt. Robert L. Crippen, USN (Ret.)
1995 Daniel S. Goldin
1994 Edward "Pete" Aldridge Jr.
1993 Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, USAF (Ret.)
1992 Dr. Norman R. Augustine
1991 Dr. Aaron Cohen
1990 Dr. Lew Allen
1989 V. Adm. Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.)
1988 Hon. Don Fuqua
1987 Dr. Maxime Faget