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MESSENGER Mission News
October 27, 2010

Smithsonian, SAE International Honor Papers Published by MESSENGER Team Members
The Smithsonian Institution and SAE International (formerly the Society for Automotive Engineers) have honored papers published by scientists on the MESSENGER team.

MESSENGER Thermal Engineer Carl J. Ercol was selected to receive the 2008 SAE Wright Brothers Medal Award for his paper of that year entitled “Return to Mercury: An overview of the MESSENGER spacecraft thermal control system design and up-to-date flight performance.”

The medal is awarded to the author of the best paper presented at an SAE meeting relating to the invention, development, design, construction, or operation of an aircraft and/or spacecraft. The award considers the value of the author’s contribution to the state-of-the-art in the furtherance of flight technology whether it pertains to aircraft or spacecraft systems or their parts, components, subsystems, or accessories. Ercol will receive his award at the SAE 2011 AeroTech Congress & Exhibition in Toulouse, France, in October 2011.

MESSENGER Participating Scientist Thomas R. Watters has been awarded the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize for the paper, “Evolution of the Rembrandt impact basin on Mercury,” which was published in Science magazine last year. Watters is a senior scientist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies of the National Air and Space Museum. The award, which comes with a $2,000 award to the winner’s research account, seeks to recognize and promote good scholarship across the Smithsonian Institution.

“MESSENGER is a technically challenging mission of scientific discovery,” notes Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “It is wonderful that these latest awards recognize that the MESSENGER spacecraft is meeting its substantial engineering challenges and at the same time providing new insights into the nature and evolution of the inner planets.”

Scientist’s Passion for Discovery Fuels Curiosity about Mercury

When she was in graduate school, Nancy Chabot — one of the MESSENGER team members working to answer the fundamental question “What does Mercury look like?” — would hold up a globe of Mercury to show a group of schoolchildren, but one side was blank because no one had ever seen it. “It’s really pretty amazing that there’s so much we don’t know about our own solar system,” says Chabot. To learn more about Chabot, read her profile here: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/who_we_are/member_focus.html

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

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