Steve Squyres – 2006
Steve Squyres, scientific principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission to the red planet, received the fourth Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award in a filled-to-capacity ceremony in Beloit, Wisconsin, hometown of the award’s namesake.
Squyres directs ongoing scientific research on Mars by twin remote-control rovers named Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers reached Mars in January 2004 following six months of space travel, 35 months of design and construction, and a multi-year conception. Squyres’s efforts to explore Mars reach back through 16 years of scientific and bureaucratic trial, error, red tape, and perseverence.
Just reaching Mars with successful twin flights marked a major scientific and engineering achievement. The research that followed—most notably the confirmation that water once flowed on Mars—makes these unmanned explorations as significant as any exploration on planet Earth. As remarkable is the endurance of the two rovers, vehicles designed to perform for the equivalent of 90 Martian days. Yet, more than two years after first setting off for the fourth planet from the Sun, the rovers continue to explore the landscape of Mars.
The Society’s 2006 Distinguished Explorer Award was presented on Friday, February 10 at Beloit College, alma mater of Andrews. During the 1920s Beloit-born explorer Roy Chapman Andrews earned international fame for leading a series of expeditions to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China, terrain arguably as hostile, remote, and challenging to explore then as Mars is today.
The Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award honors the legacy of the Andrews explorations, the fame of the explorer, and his influence on future generations of scientists. Squyres is the fourth recipient of the award’s $5,000 prize and companion bronze statue in as many years.
The Distinguished Explorer Award program is a principal focus of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society. Founded in 1998, the Society’s mission is to honor the legacy of one of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th century by educating the public about Andrews’s life, work, and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; and emphasizing Andrews’s lifetime ties to Beloit.
Dr. Squyres is a Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. Research for which he is best known includes study of the history and distribution of water on Mars, and of the possible existence of a liquid water ocean on Europa.
He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1981 and spent 5 years as a postdoctoral associate and research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center before returning to Cornell as a faculty member. He was an associate of the Voyager imaging team for the encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, and a guest investigator on the Magellan mission to Venus.