By Lindsey Cousins
The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation presented the 2016 National Space Trophy to Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at the 30th annual RNASA Space Awards Gala April 29 at the Houston Hyatt Regency.
After the ceremonies opened with “The Soul of the Explorer,” a short film by Space City Films, RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo González welcomed the guests to the black tie gala, pointing out that “RNASA’s mission is to encourage, recognize, honor and celebrate U.S. space achievements from across the entire country and across all sectors.”
The Clear Lake High School JROTC Color Guard presented the colors, followed by Reagan Johnson, who sang the National Anthem and the Rev. William H. King III of Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, who gave the invocation. Former National Space Trophy winners in attendance also were recognized — Col. Robert Cabana, Gen. Charles Bolden, Capt. Michael Coats, Bill Gerstenmaier, Dr. Michael Griffin, Col. Eileen Collins, Dr. Glynn Lunney, Tommy Holloway, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford. U.S. congressman John Culberson, representing the Texas 7th district was also in attendance and recognized.
After dinner, the program kicked off with a year-in- review film by Space City Films. Miles O’Brien, former CNN correspondent and current science correspondent for PBSNewsHour served as the emcee.
American political satirist and author, P.J. O’Rourke had the crowd laughing as the evenings’ featured speaker, after which Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham presented the 2016 Space Communicator Award to Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society and best known for his role as Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The Stellar Award winners were announced by astronauts Rex Walheim and Stephanie Wilson, who presented them with engraved marble trophies donated by Orbital ATK. The Stellar Awards were presented in Early Career, Mid-Career, Late Career, and Team categories.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, recipient of the 2014 National Space Trophy, presented the 2016 National Space Trophy to Dr. Charles Elachi, who is retiring as JPL director after a long, distinguished career.
NASA astronaut Tim Kopra sent a message down from the International Space Station praising the work of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and congratulating Dr. Elachi on receiving the National Space Trophy. To further commemorate the 30th annual event, the giant 500-pound National Space Trophy housed at Space Center Houston was also on display on center stage.