24 September 2013

Inaugural AAS Award for Public Service to the Astronomical Sciences Goes to Sen. Mikulski

Joel Parriott American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The AAS Executive Committee recently approved a new AAS Award for Public Service to the Astronomical Sciences to be given at most annually to up to two individuals who have performed outstanding public service in support of the astronomical sciences. The inaugural award is being presented to Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD).

According to the new award’s rules, candidates should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in the development of science policy, particularly in support of astronomical research and education. The AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) serves as the nominating committee and may, at its discretion, solicit nominations from the Society membership. Nominations go to the Executive Committee for review, selection, and approval on behalf of the Council.

As stated in the CAPP’s nomination letter, Sen. Mikulski’s strong and sustained support for science and technology, and in particular for the astronomical sciences, makes her an excellent candidate to receive the first of the new awards. Through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee, as chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science and now the full Committee, Sen. Mikulski has been an important advocate for increased investment in research and education at the federal agencies under her jurisdiction: NASA, NSF, and Commerce, and now Energy and Defense. Her steadfast support for the astronomical sciences as a whole, from NASA’s Great Observatories to NSF’s grant programs, has been critical in retaining U.S. leadership in the study of the universe. Sen. Mikulski has also played an important role during crisis moments in the field such as the decision on whether or not NASA should undertake a Hubble servicing mission following the Columbia accident.

Sen. Mikulski’s award citation reads as follows: “For her leadership and steadfast support of science and technology, and in particular the astronomical sciences, in the United States.”