Earlier this week, Prof. Steven Squyres ’78 Ph.D. ’82, astronomy, was awarded the 2009 American Astronomical Society Carl Sagan Medal. Named after esteemed former Cornell professor Carl Sagan, the medal is awarded annually to a scientist who exhibits excellence in communication.
Squyres was honored with the award because of his ability to connect the general public with the goings-on of the Mars rover missions. A principal investigator of the Mars rover missions, he created the mission update section of the mission website.
“We feel very strongly that the people who pay have a real right to find out in very clear, simple terms what they’re getting for their $900 million,” Squyres said in a University press release. “If I’m asleep and you’re awake, you can see the pictures from the rover before I do. And what that has done is it’s really enabled people to share in this voyage of exploration.”
Since the first rover, Spirit, landed on Mars in 2004, a database filled with all the photographs taken by the rovers has been publicly accessible. Additionally, a Web site was created, giving updates of the rovers’ activities.
Part of the thrill in winning the award for Squyres was the connection it drew between him and its namesake. While Squyres was a graduate student at Cornell, he worked intimately with Sagan. He said it was an honor to be able to follow the path that was blazed by Sagan and achieve recognition for adhering to the philosophy of his venerable predecessor.