Each year an Award first put forward and set up by Dave Wright and Jerry Stone, provides public recognition of an individual or a team of people who have excelled in selected categories associated with astronautics. This year the Awards took place during the UK Space Conference at the Glasgow Science Centre, at a black tie dinner on 16 July where for the three finalists in each category experienced the closest scientists, engineers and educators can get to the heart-quickening pace of the Oscars.
Founded in 2005, the annual Awards ceremony was for many years held at Charterhouse School before it moved, with the UK Space Conference to the University of Warwick in 2011. Hosted by Jon Culshaw, the well-known space enthusiast and celebrity impressionist, last year the event was held at the Cholmondeley Room at the House of Lords, where Dave and Lesley Wright and Jerry Stone handed over ‘The Arthurs’ to the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. This year it was back under the umbrella of the UK Space Conference and its venue in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow. The Award Ceremony was hosted by Helen Keen, award winning comedy writer and performer, at the glittering Conference Dinner in the Glasgow Science Centre.
The Dinner began with a welcome and thanks by Jeremy Curtis of the UK Space Agency, followed by an extremely amusing speech by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. At the end of dinner Helen Keen introduced Angie Edwards, niece of Sir Arthur, UK Member of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation Board and Chair of the Judging Panel to open the proceedings saying, “Tonight is another very special occasion, not just a tribute to Sir Arthur, but The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards recognise and reward significant achievements in all space activities and this year we have received a bumper crop of nominations from both the general public and our nominations panel which represented all corners of the space sector. I’m sure Sir Arthur liked the idea that everyone would get the chance to nominate someone and that no area was overlooked. Fortunately, as there were clear winners in each category, I was not called on to use my ‘casting vote’! ”
Then it was up to Tim Peake, the UK’s ESA astronaut assigned to fly to the ISS in 2015, to present the monoliths.
Once again the Awards were divided into seven Space Achievement categories for British nominees, including Industry/Project (Team and Individual), Academic Study/Research, Education and Outreach, Student, Media (Broadcast and Written) and the Lifetime Achievement Awards. To recognise the achievement of the broader international community, the eighth category was the International Achievement Award.
Once again the nomination and judging process was overseen by our very own Suszann Parry, Executive Secretary of the BIS, and began with the request for nominations in each category from which three finalists were short listed and invited to the Award Ceremony.
The nominations were broad and of exceptional quality and although only one of the three short listed in each category would win an Award, all represent the finest in their fields. As such, it is equally important to recognise their individual or team achievements that brought them thus far.
The nominees and the winners
For the Industry/Project Team category the short-listed finalists were three high performance organisations each of which is worthy of an Award. Short-listed were: the Galileo teams at CGI and SSTL, key UK players in the European satellite navigation programme; e2v with its acclaimed success at capturing contracts for a wide range of platforms including NASA’s Curiosity rover; and Reaction Engines Ltd for their work on Skylon and the SABRE engine. e2v walked away with the award, claimed by Richard Gibbs
The Industry/Project Individual selections included: Paul Flanagan of UK Space, a veritable guru when it comes to regulatory standards, financing and marketing; John Thatcher, European Consortium manager for the MIRI instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope, the first instrument to be delivered for the telescope; and Dr Guy Richardson of SSTL, a powerful force behind research and development but also with a wide reputation for erudite scholarship through his writings. The winner in this category was Paul Flanagan.
In the Academic Study/Research category, focusing on extraordinary achievement in space research, nominations were short listed to: the Herschel-SPIRE Team at the University of Cardiff led by Prof Matt Griffin, for revolutionary work on far-IR and submillimetre wavelength observations of 250,000 galaxies; Prof Andrew Coates, head of the Planetary Science Group and reader at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, for pioneering work on the electron spectrometer on Cassini; and Prof George Efstathiou of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy, for groundbreaking work on interpreting data from the Planck satellite. The winner was the Herschel-SPIRE Team collected by Tanya Lim.
The Student category attracted wide potential with the following up for an Award: LightTouch2 from the University of Strathclyde, where Massimo Vetrisano, Alison Gibbins and Daniel Garcia-Yarnoz from the Advanced Concepts Laboratory developed a laser ablation technology for asteroid deflection; Rebecca Hayward of the Hockerill Anglo European College, a 12 year old ambassador for space science with a stunning portfolio of writings and appearances to date; and Arrow Lee and the PoleCATS Team, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, for independently developing an experiment launched from Kiruna on a sounding rocket. In this category, the winner was Rebecca Hayward, the youngest ever nominee and winner!
Education and Outreach afforded four finalists, consisting of: the National Space Academy Team for using space for STEM subjects in schools; Stuart Eves of SSTL, for more than 20 years of promoting space to a wide range of groups and schools; Dr Chris Bridges from the University of Surrey who apart from being a popular speaker for schools and the media, has used STRaND-1 as a promotional example of accessible technologies; and Randall Perry from Imperial College, chair of the UK Space Design Competition for young students. Stuart Eves was the winner from among high-class challengers.
Media finalists included: Ben Gilliland from the London newspaper Metro; the BBC Material World Team and Quentin Cooper; and the Open University’s 60 second Adventures in Astronomy. Ben Gilliland won the Award for his outstanding coverage of space and astronomy topics through a series of special graphic realisations that have captured an audience across the age spectrum and among a wide range of professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Contenders for the Lifetime Achievement Award were shortlisted to David Williams for his outstanding service with the UK Space Agency prior to departing to take up another post; Prof Len Culhane of Mullard, Fellow of the Royal Society and director of the Space Science Laboratory; and Prof Alan Wells, University of Leicester, who founded its Space Research Centre in 1995 and who has participated in 10 space science missions including the SWIFT astronomy satellite. Prof Wells was selected as the winner and was on hand to accept the Award.
The International Award brought forth: Dr. Joseph N. Pelton, creator of the Clarke Foundation and one of the founders of the International Space University who has recently helped set up the Arthur C Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California San Diego; the JPL/NASA Curiosity Team for demonstrating an innovative landing technology and for placing the next generation rover on Mars; and Jane Houston Jones, widely known for her outreach initiatives, writings and promotion of all things astronomical. The winner was Dr. Joseph N. Pelton, who, having known and worked with Sir Arthur, was able to express his gratitude for the award on video.