texture of far away planet in deep space

Fred Whipple Award and Lecture

Information on the Award

The Fred Whipple Award and Lecture are presented annually and recognize significant contributions to the field of planetary science from a mid-career or senior scientist. Established in 1989, this award, and accompanying lecture, are named in honor of Fred Whipple, an AGU Fellow and astronomer whose most notable work focused on comets.

The Whipple Award is presented at the Planetary Sciences section reception during the AGU Fall Meeting where the awardee also presents the Whipple Lecture.

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Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the Fred Whipple Award and Lecture will receive the following benefits with the honor:

  • 1
    Award and lecture certificates
  • 2

    Recognition in Eos

  • 3

    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award and lecture presentation year

  • 4

    An invitation to present the Whipple Lecture at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

  • 5

    Complimentary ticket to the Planetary Sciences section reception at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award and lecture presentation year


To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and Whipple Award Committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is not required to be an active AGU member.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Planetary Sciences section leadership
    • Whipple Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Nominators are not required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Planetary Sciences section leadership;
    • Whipple Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Planetary Sciences section leadership;
    • Whipple Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the award committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.

Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:

  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
  • A previous graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) and/or postdoctoral advisor, or postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
  • A former doctoral or graduate student, or a former postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter for a former advisor but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
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Nomination Package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. Watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our guide.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria. It should include details about significant contributions to the field of planetary science. The nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • At least three, but no more than six, letters of support. The supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.

Submission Process

Submissions are reviewed by the Whipple Award Committee. Nominations should be submitted online.
Artist's rendering of Earth in space with rising sun


Thomas H Prettyman



Dr. Ralph Lorenz’s broad scientific and engineering experience has enabled him to make numerous noteworthy contributions to the scientific understanding of several different planetary bodies. His scientific focus is planetary surface-atmosphere interactions, and his fieldwork in the desert regions of Earth has informed and enabled his analysis of aeolian processes on other bodies in the solar system. He has conducted scientific analyses that have enriched our understanding of dust devils on Mars and dunes on Titan, and contributed to such exotic discoveries as lightning on Venus. Furthermore, Ralph has been involved in the life cycle of flight investigations including concept formulation, mission and system design, science planning, observation design, instrument development, data analysis, and publication of results.

Much of the uniqueness of Ralph’s work flows from the innovative sensor platforms used in his scientific investigations and analyses, including probes, landers, balloons, penetrators, drones, and boats. He was a Cassini Radar team member and coinvestigator on the Huygens probe’s Surface Science Package. He is a science team member of the InSIGHT mission to understand Mars’s interior and is the Dragonfly Mission Architect. In addition, he is a science team member and the Payload Experiment Lead for the Venus Atmosphere Structure Investigation on the DAVINCI mission to Venus.

Ralph is a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge with technical and nontechnical audiences. He has first authored almost 200 peer-reviewed publications and has coauthored numerous others. He has also penned many books, including books about planetary climate research (Exploring Planetary Climate: A History of Scientific Discovery on Earth, Mars, Venus and Titan), aerodynamics (Spinning Flight: Dynamics of Frisbees, Boomerangs, Samaras, and Skipping Stones), multiple books about Titan (e.g., Lifting Titan’s Veil: Exploring the Giant Moon of Saturn) and spacecraft (e.g., Cassini-Huygens Owners’ Workshop Manual), as well as coauthoring a book on aeolian processes on planetary bodies (Dune Worlds: How Windblown Sand Shapes Planetary Landscapes).

Ralph truly has an unparalleled breadth of knowledge and impact on planetary science. His overall excellence exemplifies the essence of the Fred Whipple Award.

—Debra Buczkowski, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.


I am deeply honored by the recognition expressed in the Whipple Award, and a little surprised, as I feel that all I have really done is work on what seem like fun and interesting problems. As some may know, I am not reticent to express critique of scientific ideas, and am not always gentle in doing so, so I particularly appreciate my colleagues who have nevertheless persisted in putting together nomination materials.

Although I don’t believe I had close personal interaction with Fred Whipple, one of the moments that set me (at age 16) on a course to work in this field was the apparition of comet Halley in 1986, during which the European Giotto spacecraft made a daring close encounter, protected from dust impacts by a Whipple shield. This theme, of spacecraft and instruments interacting with planetary environments, is perhaps what has defined my career.

I was lucky indeed to start that career on the epic Cassini-Huygens project right at its beginning in 1990, and I have had the great fortune to have worked on various international spacecraft projects since then, as well as in field, laboratory, and theoretical investigations. The range of disciplines and techniques in the planetary sciences is what makes it such an intellectually stimulating enterprise. But what makes it fun, of course, are the people, the many brilliant colleagues, too many to list here (and including several previous Whipple awardees), with whom I’ve puzzled over new images and data, or toiled in the crucible of mission proposals, or changed tires on desert field trips. It is a joy to work with you all!

—Ralph D. Lorenz, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.


Lecture Title

“ADVENTURES IN PLANETARY SCIENCE,1960-2020”, a personal retrospective summary of sixty years of research in the Planetary Sciences

Field Photo

Robert Pepin Fieldshot


Faith Vilas received the 2019 Fred Whipple Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “significant contributions to the field of planetary science from a midcareer or senior scientist.”



Dr. Faith Vilas is the 2019 recipient of the Whipple Award, the highest honor given by the Planetary Sciences section of AGU. During her more than 40 year career, Dr. Vilas has pioneered remote sensing of the solar system, pushing its capabilities through instrument design and expert observations of a variety of targets. Dr. Vilas studies the surface composition of airless bodies including asteroids, moons, and the planet Mercury. She has made ground-based visible wavelength spectroscopy her focus and has excelled in pulling out small but telling spectral features in the reflectance spectra of these airless bodies.

Examples of her groundbreaking work include her analysis of subtle absorption features in reflectance spectra of low-albedo (presumed primitive) asteroids. In particular, this includes a feature centered near 0.7 micron, which is caused by the action of aqueous alteration—evidence of water’s action throughout history in the asteroid belt. She showed that Galileo broadband data of the Moon exhibited the 0.7-micron feature, indicative of an aqueous alteration product near high southern latitude craters—an initial detection of lunar hydration, well before later reports based on infrared spectral features.

Vilas’s dedication to planetary science is also reflected in her contributions to the field in the form of service to the community. Examples include serving as the NASA Discovery Program Scientist; program director for planetary astronomy at the National Science Foundation; chief scientist of the NASA Planetary Data System; the inaugural NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) chair; chair of the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences; and vice chair and chair of the Detection and Characterization Sub-committee on the 2009 National Academies’ study on near-Earth object detection, characterization, mitigation, Defending Planet Earth.

The impact of Dr. Vilas’s work in these areas cannot be overstated.

—Amanda Hendrix, Planetary Science Institute, Colorado


I am honored and humbled to receive the Fred Whipple Award from the AGU Planetary Sciences section. Thank you all very much!

No work is possible without the support and collaboration of colleagues, sponsors, and friends. I will certainly fail to mention all of the culprits, but I start with thanking my undergraduate advisor, Sally Hill, for encouraging me to pursue my scientific passion in planets—the combination of passion and persistence underlies many advancements in science. I thank both of my graduate advisors, Tom McCord (a former Whipple awardee) and Brad Smith, for providing me with great opportunities to pursue planetary sciences and instrumentation. My research has benefited from collaborations with Mike Gaffey, Bill Hubbard, Anita Cochran, Steve Larson, Mark Sykes, Amanda Hendrix, and Deborah Domingue. Many undergraduate interns, graduate students, and postdocs have forced me to expand my thinking with their own creative input while conducting research, notably Kandy Jarvis, Liz Jensen, and Sue Lederer.

I chose the nascent field of planetary sciences as a college undergraduate and have had the privilege to watch it grow and expand over a lifetime’s career. Telescopic observations of points of light to glean the surface composition and structural and orbital properties of solar system bodies are now succeeded by detailed imaging, returned samples, and surface rovers throughout the solar system. Each object brings new surprises. Quoting a colleague, “There is more diversity in the solar system than there is in the brains of bright theorists!” Our expansion with space probes is enabled by Earth-based remote sensing, and these two approaches will remain intertwined as we continue our journey of planetary systems exploration.

—Faith Vilas, Planetary Science Institute, Arizona

Philip Christensen will receive the 2018 Fred Whipple Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an individual who has made “outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science.”



Dr. Phil Christensen is the 2018 recipient of the Whipple Award, the highest honor given by the Planetary Sciences section of AGU. Christensen is a leader in thermal infrared spectroscopy and radiometry who has contributed to technological developments for spacecraft missions and fundamental material science for the study of minerals and planetary surfaces.

Trained at the University of California, Los Angeles, Christensen’s first mission instrument was selected for the ill-fated Mars Observer and ultimately flown on Mars Global Surveyor. His instruments have been selected for eight missions to date, spanning exploration of the solar system from the asteroid belt to Jupiter.

Christensen has developed new techniques to infer the phases and relative abundances of minerals using carefully measured laboratory spectra of key minerals as end members. With instruments on two orbiters and two rovers on Mars, he has made multiple discoveries in the surface composition and near-surface physical properties. Ultimately, his instruments have provided global maps of the major compositional provinces on Mars and measurements of the seasonal cycles, temperature, dust, and water vapor in the atmosphere over multiple Martian years.

With his deep experience in planetary exploration, Christensen chaired the Mars panel in the last Planetary Science Decadal Survey and the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science. Christensen has demonstrated selfless leadership, and wisdom in his leadership, of the planetary community. Christensen’s deep impact on planetary science is also reflected in his dedication to teaching and training many students and postdoctoral researchers.

AGU honors Dr. Christensen for his fundamental contributions to exploration and discovery in planetary science.

—Sarah T. Stewart, University of California, Davis


I am deeply honored to receive this year’s Whipple Award. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to participate in planetary exploration during its early phase of reconnaissance, when very little was known and almost every new observation led to a new discovery. Very early in my career I had the great fortune to work with Hugh Kieffer on the Mariner 9 and Viking missions to Mars. In addition to being and remaining a wonderful mentor and friend, Hugh introduced me to the excitement and satisfaction of being actively involved in planetary missions. I was privileged to be in a room with a group of remarkable individuals who were debating what we would see from the first images from the surface of another planet as Viking prepared to land in the early hours of 20 July 1976. It was also from Hugh that I, and several other of his students, developed an interest in building instruments and leading missions that could extend the boundaries of what we know about planetary surfaces and atmospheres. During my career, I have watched as Mars changed from a point of light in the night sky to a world that is becoming as familiar as our own. It is commonplace to look at vistas from Mars rovers and to address the same sophisticated questions that a geologist would ask when studying the geologic processes in the U.S. Southwest. It has been remarkable to watch planetary science advance to where we can now study all bodies in our solar system as unique worlds, with complex processes and histories of their own. One of the true pleasures of my career has been the opportunity to mentor students—I hope I’ve passed along some of what I’ve learned and helped to inspire the next generation of planetary explorers.

—Philip Christensen, Arizona State University, Tempe

Michael C. Malin will receive the 2017 Whipple Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.”



Dr. Michael Malin is the 2017 recipient of the Whipple Award, the highest honor given by the Planetary Sciences section of AGU. His paradigm-breaking leadership in planet exploration and instrument development laid the foundation for modern views of the rich geologic history of Mars.

Malin trained as a geomorphologist at the California Institute of Technology during the Mariner 9 mission. His interests span the inner solar system and icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, including pioneering studies of the volcanic origin of the intracrater plains on Mercury and mass wasting on Venus. Malin’s primary focus has been on Mars, and he argued that Viking Orbiter images at quarter-kilometer scale significantly limited image-based geological studies of Mars. He campaigned strongly and persistently for better instrumentation.

In 1986, Malin’s proposed Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) for the Mars Observer mission was selected by NASA. After that mission failed, the MOC flew on the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft and provided about 2 orders of magnitude better resolution than the Viking Orbiter cameras. This innovative imaging system, collecting image data one line at a time as spacecraft motion swept out the field of view, transformed our understanding of the Martian surface.

Between Mars Observer selection and MGS’s successful arrival at Mars in 1997, Malin received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and left academia. The fellowship provided him resources to establish Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), a company that since Viking, has contributed imaging systems to most major missions to Mars and changed the paradigm for low-cost, high-performance space mission cameras.

Malin’s foresight and conviction paved the way for many discoveries. He is most appreciated for his unprecedented study of the sedimentary record on Mars. Previously, Mars had been considered a principally volcanic planet, with water-ice caps and cratered highlands. With MOC images, Malin mapped diverse sedimentary environments on Mars and identified previously unrecognized geologic processes, including relief inversion, lacustrine environments, and subaqueous processes. His careful observations have been a catalyst for modern views of the dynamic surface environment on Mars.

The planetary science community honors Dr. Malin for his research accomplishments, engineering talent, and spirit of exploration.

—Sarah T. Stewart, University of California, Davis


I am deeply honored, and very surprised, to be named the Whipple awardee and lecturer. As a person who sees the proverbial glass half empty, and who is often harshly critical of the work of colleagues and myself, it took extraordinary commitment for someone to nominate me and for others to write letters of support of sufficient quality to result in this award. I thank them all for putting in the time and effort.

In my first draft of this response, I assembled a timeline of the people who were instrumental to my career. That effort exceeded the response word limit by greater than 2 times. Herein follows a ranking by degree of impact on me of these people. I apologize to those who didn’t make this arbitrary cut.

I am most indebted to Bruce Murray (my advisor), Bob Sharp, and Gene Shoemaker of Caltech, who set examples beyond my ability to emulate and provided encouragement and intellectual challenges that shaped my approach to science. The collaborations with Murray (as his student), and Sharp thereafter (as a colleague), stimulated some of my most productive and imaginative efforts.

My greatest fortune was meeting and being befriended by G. Edward Danielson, an innovative engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with superb people skills, an ability I did not possess and couldn’t easily attain. Our collaboration ultimately led to the successful Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) effort, for which Ed, then at Caltech, assembled and managed a team of bright, young, gifted, and iconoclastic engineers including Tom Soulanille, Mike Ravine, and Scott Brylow, and I recruited to ASU Diana Michna and Mike Caplinger, who became the core of Malin Space Science Systems. Without these associates, my signature scientific achievements would never have been made.

My most productive and rewarding collaboration has been with Ken Edgett, who shared essentially all of the major discoveries and advances made using MOC.

My career also benefited from dealing with imaginative and courageous administrators who saw within my many flawed proposals the kernels of potential, despite wildly disparate reviews. Burt Edelson, Steve Dwornik, Bill Quaide at NASA HQ, Mort Turner at the National Science Foundation, Glenn Cunningham and Tom Thorpe at JPL, and Arden Albee at Caltech were the “customers” that enabled my work.

—Michael C. Malin, Malin Space Science Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif.

John Spencer will receive the 2016 Whipple Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



Dr. John Spencer is the 2016 recipient of the Whipple Award, the highest honor given by the American Geophysical Union Planetary Sciences section. Dr. Spencer’s contributions to the exploration and understanding of satellites in the solar system have had a profound influence on the field of planetary science.
Dr. Spencer is a gifted astronomer, who specializes in multispectral observations from ground-based telescopes to spacecraft. He has probed atmospheric compositions, measured tidal heat output, and chased the seasonal dance of surface frosts across the outer solar system. Dr. Spencer’s research into the thermal and physical properties of planetary surfaces has shed light on the most remote terrains.

Dr. Spencer’s research on Io has been vital to our understanding of Jupiter’s intensely volcanic moon. Most notably, his discovery of S2 gas in the large plume, Pele, has been key in constraining Io’s interior chemistry. By exploring Io from multiple flyby spacecraft and from Hubble to monitor major volcanic eruptions and to map global thermal emission, his research has been crucial in constraining Io’s energy budget.

Using Cassini data, Dr. Spencer was first to recognize that excess thermal energy is radiating from the “tiger stripes” region near Enceladus’s south pole from which its plumes erupt. His estimation of the total flux has led to insights into the internal structure, energetics driving the plume, character of the internal ocean, and Enceladus’s tidal evolution.

Dr. Spencer’s leadership on Galileo, Cassini, and now New Horizons has trained a new generation of scientists in rigorous analysis techniques and innovative observing strategies. Dr. Spencer’s enthusiastic support of the planetary community includes chairing the Satellites panel for the last Decadal Survey and laying the groundwork for the Europa mission.

The planetary science community honors Dr. Spencer for his research accomplishments, community spirit, and intense curiosity. We look forward to your discoveries on Europa and the Kuiper Belt!

—Sarah T. Stewart, University of California, Davis


I’m delighted (and amazed) to receive this honor, all the more so given the list of past recipients, which includes so many of my heroes. Like previous winner Steve Squyres, I wanted to be Larry Soderblom when I grew up—maybe this is a common condition among planetary scientists. Many others have made my career possible through their mentoring and inspiration. Pete Schultz in particular stands out for taking the chance of inviting a Lancashire lad to join the summer intern program at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in 1978, and showing me how much fun the process of discovery could be. Alan Stern also deserves special mention—my attempts to keep up with him have led me on an exhilarating and truly spectacular ride to Pluto and beyond. I will also always be grateful to Lowell Observatory and Southwest Research Institute for providing such congenial environments for my explorations.

The exploration of the solar system is one of humanity’s greatest adventures, revealing the beauty and wonder and interconnectedness of so many worlds, and showing what is special and precious about our own planet. It has been a great privilege to have been part of this enterprise during a time that will arguably be seen as its golden age.

—John Spencer, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Alfred McEwen will receive the 2015 Whipple Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award, the highest honor given by the American Geophysical Union Planetary Sciences section, is named for Fred Whipple, a famed space scientist most noted for his work on comets.

This year, we have selected Alfred McEwen, professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, as the 2015 Whipple Award winner. Before, during, and after his Ph.D. at Arizona State University, Dr. McEwen worked at the U.S. Geological Survey branch of astrogeology in Flagstaff, moving to the University of Arizona in 1996.

Dr. McEwen is interested in how planets evolve. His mission involvement began in 1989 as a guest investigator with the Voyager imaging team for Neptune encounter. Since then, he has been involved with Galileo, Cassini, Clementine, the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as current proposals for future missions. He is deputy principal investigator (PI) of the new Europa Imaging System.

Perhaps his first revolutionary work was the discovery of especially high temperature volcanism on Io. He has published ~200 papers with a who’s who of planetary scientists as collaborators. He has served as an indispensable reminder that better mission data produce better understanding of planets and provide the surprises that we don’t anticipate.

Alfred is the principal investigator of the incredibly successful High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on MRO. Along with critical data about the planet’s past, HiRISE has provided conclusive evidence that Mars remains a dynamic planet. Dr. McEwen’s most important contribution to our field may be the linear features that darken and lengthen during the warmest periods, only to fade away as surface temperatures drop—these recurring slope lineae are most probably seasonal flows of brine on Mars today.

That inquisitive nature, the openness to new ideas and people, and—most of all—his ability to produce results have marked his career and are worthy of the Whipple Award. Many congratulations to Alfred S. McEwen for outstanding contributions to planetary science.

—Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Arizona State University, Tempe


I truly appreciate this unanticipated recognition. I’ve had awesome role models in past Whipple recipients Larry Soderblom, who hired me off the street and changed my life, and Gene Shoemaker, whose enthusiasm and generosity are legendary. The success of HiRISE is due to many people, including Alan Delamere (instrument design), Rich Zurek (project scientist), Candice Hansen (deputy PI), and the munificent science and operations teams. Those 200 papers Lindy mentioned are due to my past and present students and postdocs, who have been fruitful collaborators. For the Whipple lecture I hope to leave a few takeaway messages: (1) high-resolution repeat imaging is key to understanding active, “ground-breaking” geologic processes, (2) NASA needs more PI-led missions, and (3) planetary scientists should pay close attention to what’s happening on Earth, which, to exoscientists, has to be one of the most interesting exoplanets in the galaxy.

My personal scientific bucket list includes understanding (1) how the recurring slope lineae (RSL) form on Mars, (2) the very high temperature volcanism on Io, and (3) the active geologic processes on Europa. The RSL have a suite of characteristics consistent with seasonal seeps of water in equatorial and midlatitude regions of Mars, but where does that water come from? If humans are really going to live on Mars at any future time, we must understand the RSL. Galileo spacecraft and Earth-based telescopic observations suggest that very high temperature volcanism occurs on Io, consistent with ultramafic lavas. A dedicated mission to Io could be the best way to understand komatiite volcanism and other processes in the early evolution of terrestrial planets. Finally, there is controversy about whether Europa is currently active, but we have almost no appropriate observations to address this question. The new NASA Europa mission will have the capability to definitively answer this question.

—Alfred S. McEwen, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson

Laurence A. Soderblom received the 2014 Whipple Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award is the highest honor given by the American Geophysical Union Planetary Sciences section and is named for Fred Whipple, a famed space scientist and the preeminent cometary scientist of the mid-20th century. This year’s Whipple Award goes to Larry Soderblom of the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff.

Larry is the consummate planetary scientist. A geophysicist by training and a geologist by inclination, his work is of extraordinary breadth. Over a more than 4-decade career in planetary science, he has participated in more than a dozen planetary missions ranging spatially from Venus out to Neptune and all the planets (and several minor bodies) in between. Scientifically, he is a generalist, but more precisely, he is better thought of as a specialist in dozens of subfields. His work is rigorous, quantitative, mindful of complexities yet always strives to maximize the science.

Notably, only in his thirties, Larry was deputy Imaging Team leader for the Voyager mission, overseeing that first scientific exploration of the satellites of the outer solar system; today, he is interdisciplinary scientist for satellites for Cassini-Huygens. And there is a direct connection to Fred Whipple’s work: Larry led the development of the camera/spectrometer for the experimental Deep Space 1 mission. The images returned of comet Borrelly were our first clues to the geologic complexity of comets now gloriously revealed by Rosetta.

Larry’s exceptional abilities have made him a target for leadership positions, and he has done extraordinary service for the community. He served twice as branch chief in Flagstaff and chaired expertly and effectively various working groups, subcommittees, and committees for NASA. And most recently, he was vice-chair of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey for the National Academy.

Finally, Larry is exceptional for his humanity and his willingness to mentor younger scientists. Larry is a model of unselfish cooperation in research, indeed, an exemplar of wisdom and humor in the midst of scientific discovery and its inevitable controversies.

Congratulations to Laurence A. Soderblom for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to planetary science.

—William B. McKinnon, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.


I am most grateful to all of my scientific friends and colleagues, to be recognized with this year’s Whipple Award. Through my career I have been so fortunate to participate in an eye-opening journey of exploration across our solar system—a journey that began for me in the late 1960s. I am deeply indebted to my two Ph.D. thesis advisors, Bruce Murray and Gene Shoemaker, for encouraging me and for setting me onto this mind-bending path. I have been truly privileged to participate in the first stage of exploration of the outer solar system and witness firsthand the explosion in our understanding of planets and planetary processes, as it has so rapidly unfolded.

When the Voyager missions were started, our vision of what lay ahead in our adventure to explore the outer planets and satellites of our solar system was primitive and unimaginative. Most expected the moons of the giant planets to be battered, lifeless, and geologically dead. But over the last 45 years, our view of these worlds has exploded with a panoply of unimaginably beautiful and complex activity. Plumes, geysers, molten calderas, rain, rivers, lakes, and seas popped up from Mars to comets to Io to Enceladus to Titan to Triton. What lessons can we take from these active places into the next phase of exploration? When the Voyagers were launched, our naiveté allowed that only planet Earth was dynamically active. But exploring our solar system, our cosmic backyard, has awed us with unforeseen complexity, scientific beauty, and rich activity. We are now far better poised for our nascent exploration of the worlds beyond that backyard.

—Laurence A. Soderblom, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Harry Y. McSween Jr. received the 2013 Whipple Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award is the highest honor given by the AGU Planetary Sciences section and is named for Fred Whipple, a famed space scientist most noted for his work on comets. This year, we have selected Harry “Hap” McSween Jr., Chancellor’s Professor and distinguished professor of science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, as the 2013 Whipple Award winner.

Hap specializes in meteorites, particularly chondrites and Martian meteorites, and studies them to understand the formation of the solar system, in the process publishing more than 250 papers on the cosmochemistry, mineralogy, and petrology of meteorites and on planetary geology. Hap is preeminent among the world’s leading meteoriticists and is arguably the world’s leading expert on Martian igneous rock petrology/geochemistry and the composition of the Martian crust. He has served as an indispensable bridge builder, connecting the world of meteoritics with planetary spacecraft exploration and the disciplines of geochemistry and petrology with remote sensing.

Hap’s interest in meteorites started as a graduate student at Harvard, where he was John Wood’s first graduate student, receiving his Ph.D. in 1977. One of the “discoveries” for which he is justifiably well known is the proposal, made with fellow grad student Ed Stopler, that certain meteorites—the shergottites—actually came from Mars. This is now accepted canon. Hap subsequently worked on several Mars missions, including Pathfinder, the Exploration Rovers, Global Surveyor, and Odyssey, and on the Dawn mission to Vesta.

Hap’s record of service to our community is exemplary as well. He is a past president of the Meteoritical Society and is currently the president-elect of the Geological Society of America. He has served on dozens of influential NASA and National Research Council (NRC) advisory panels that have shaped our nation’s planetary exploration program, including leadership roles in the recent NRC Planetary Decadal Survey. He has authored or coauthored half a dozen books, both for academics and for the general public. Hap’s service to his discipline exemplifies the “selfless service” that AGU values as a model for its members.

So congratulations to Harry Younger McSween Jr. for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to planetary science.

—WILLIAM B. MCKINNON, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.


Not so long ago, our forebears in planetary science—people like Fred Whipple—could truthfully have stated, “Half of what we have been taught is wrong. Unfortunately, we don’t know which half.” That does not apply to us anymore, but it remains true that in studying the planets, we must use every scrap of available information, weaving disparate data sets into a tapestry that reveals how these bodies formed and evolved.

Much of my own work takes advantage of the fact that planets sometimes swap rocks, and these meteorites can provide ground truth for our planetary understanding. I am privileged to have been mentored in meteoritics by John Wood, a previous Whipple Award recipient. I have also enjoyed the heady experience of remotely analyzing rocks on the surfaces of other worlds, courtesy of NASA spacecraft and working with fellow planetary scientists like Steve Squyres, last year’s Whipple Award winner. I am especially indebted to my 50-odd former graduate students and postdocs, who have certainly taught me more planetary science than I taught them and always kept me invigorated.

I really had no expectation of receiving the Whipple Award, and I am humbled to be given this coveted stamp of approval from AGU’s Planetary Sciences section. I gratefully accept it as a representative of many colleagues who work in extraterrestrial petrology and cosmochemistry—a corner of planetary science, a cornerstone really, that plays a significant role in our discipline. Thank you for this honor.

—HARRY Y. MCSWEEN JR., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Steven Squyres received the 2012 Whipple Award at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award is the highest honor given by the AGU Planetary Sciences section. The award is named for Fred Whipple, a gifted space scientist most noted for his work on understanding comets.

I’m very pleased that our award winner this year is Dr. Steven Squyres. Steve serves as the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell. He has been involved, at some level, with many of the most exciting planetary missions we’ve flown, including Voyager, Magellan, Cassini, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and, of course, as principal investigator for the science payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers Project, with its two Energizer Bunny rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Steve’s work has focused on Mars and the moons of the outer planets. He is best known for research on the study of water on Mars and of a possible ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa. He has also served as an “aquanaut” on two NASA NEEMO missions (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), spending many days underwater in a habitat designed to advance our understanding of challenges faced in human exploration beyond Earth.

Steve’s service to our community is extensive and well known. He chaired the most recent planetary decadal survey for the National Research Council. He is currently the chair of the NASA Advisory Council. His past honors include the American Astronomical Society’s Harold C. Urey Prize, the Space Science Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Astronautical Society’s Carl Sagan Award, the National Space Society’s Wernher von Braun Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In summary, to borrow from his nomination letter, Steve excels in all key criteria for a Whipple Award recipient. He has propagated planetary science by testing old paradigms and creating new ones, by prolificacy in publications, by engaging the public, by guiding the next generation of planetary scientists, and by leading the planetary science community.
Congratulations to Steve Squyres, winner of the 2012 AGU Whipple Award.

—LAURIE A. LESHIN, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Loudonville, N.Y.


I started down this road a long time ago, and I’ve had the good fortune to be guided by many people along the way. Joe Veverka was my advisor in grad school, and he taught me both how to do science and, by his example, how to be a generous mentor and colleague. Joe was last year’s recipient of the Whipple Award, and in a lovely twist, Joe’s advisor when he was in grad school was none other than Fred Whipple himself. So I dedicate this to my academic father and my academic grandfather.

Over the years I’ve gotten to work with some of the best in the business on a number of NASA flight projects. As a brand-new grad student working on the Voyager project, I decided that Larry Soderblom was the guy I wanted to be like when I grew up. I’m still working on that one. Ray Arvidson has been my partner and friend through all the years that we’ve worked on Spirit and Opportunity, from the very beginning right up to yestersol. And, of course, the rover science is the product of the whole Athena science team, more than a hundred scientists whom I’m very proud to be one of.

Finally, we scientists sometimes have a tendency to forget about the people who make what we do possible—the engineers who build our instruments and our spacecraft. All the science done by the Mars Exploration rovers was made possible by people like Pete Theisinger, Richard Cook, Matt Wallace, my good friend Barry Goldstein, and literally thousands of others. I am deeply in their debt, as are we all.

—STEVEN W. SQUYRES, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Joseph Veverka received the 2011 Whipple Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award is the highest honor given by the AGU Planetary Sciences section. The award is named for Fred Whipple, a gifted space scientist most noted for his work on understanding comets.

We have selected Joe Veverka, the James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences and a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y., as this year’s Whipple Award winner. This selection is especially appropriate, not only because many of Joe’s major contributions to our field have been in the small body arena but also because Joe was Fred Whipple’s last graduate student!

Joe has been a pioneer in the use of photometry and the development of photometric phase functions from telescopes and spacecraft to characterize the nature and physical properties of planetary surfaces, focusing especially on small bodies. He led, along with his many students and postdocs, important studies that enabled albedo determinations on asteroids, comets, planets, and satellites and thus the direct comparison of their surface properties to laboratory data sets.

Joe has been involved as a key coinvestigator, team leader, or principal investigator on a remarkable number of robotic space exploration missions, including Mariner 9, Viking, Voyager, Mars Observer, Galileo, Mars Global Surveyor, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Cassini, Comet Nucleus Tour (­CONTOUR), Deep Impact, and Stardust-NExT.

Joe has also performed important service work for our community, including serving as an editor at Icarus, chair of numerous NASA working groups, chair of the Committee for Planetary Exploration (­COMPLEX), and, most recently, as chair of the National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey’s Small Bodies Panel. Beyond these academic and community service achievements, Joe has been an outstanding teacher, advisor, and mentor to many of the leaders in our field.

Joe’s service to his discipline exemplifies the “selfless service” that AGU values as a model for its members, and his scientific contributions are great. He is qualified in every respect to receive the Fred Whipple Award.

—Laurie Leshin, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y.


Thank you, Laurie.

I am honored and delighted to receive this award because of the recognition it represents on the part of my friends and colleagues in the Planetary Sciences section of AGU, and also because the award is named after Fred Whipple, my thesis advisor at Harvard. Fred was a most remarkable individual, who, in his work, combined keen intellectual curiosity, unusual scientific skill, and a lot of common sense. One of the things that I learned very early from Fred is that no amount of erudition is a substitute for practical common sense.

We are fortunate to be living at a time when planets, asteroids, and comets are no longer mere points of light in the night sky but are bodies to which we can send our spacecraft and instruments to study individual objects in detail. As scientists, we are also fortunate to have supporting us large groups of engineers and technicians whose dedicated efforts make these endeavors successful. Exploring our solar system has been and will continue to be a great adventure. With ongoing missions such as European Space Agency’s Rosetta and NASA’s New Horizons, Dawn, and Osiris Rex, our understanding of the building blocks of our solar system, the comets, asteroids, and related objects will continue to grow dramatically.

In conclusion, allow me once again to express my sincere thanks to you, my colleagues, for this award and to the memory of Fred Whipple, who got me started in planetary science. And would it be inappropriate for all of us to thank the universe for providing us with a solar system so full of fascinating planets, satellites, asteroids, and comets for us to study, explore, and learn to understand?

—Joseph Veverka, Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y.

Jean-Pierre Bibring received the Whipple Award at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Whipple Award of the Planetary Sciences section is named for Fred Whipple. His work on comets is very well known, of course. We value this today for the quantitative approach to understanding physical phenomena, the insights into how to relate data to theoretical concepts in order to understand complex systems, and the innovative results in developing new paradigms that arise from using these approaches carefully and thoughtfully. This year’s recipient of the Whipple Award, Jean-Pierre Bibring, fits easily within each of these descriptions. He has been instrumental in making sure that instruments have flown to Mars that are capable of making the key measurements. And, when faced with observations that did not fit neatly within the previous view of the history of Mars, he managed to integrate them into a new view of that history that is now widely accepted. Jean-Pierre’s work on the composition of the Martian surface and the changes that have occurred throughout Martian history has changed our view of the history of the surface of Mars and of water on Mars. And it has provided a conceptual framework into which our upcoming observations that pertain to the potential for life to have existed can be fit. It is this approach that exemplifies the best of our discipline and shows the intellectual leadership to take the field in new and novel, yet absolutely appropriate, directions.

—Bruce M. Jakosky, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder


I could not be touched and moved more than by being honored by the prestigious community that led the building of the modern view of the solar system, with outcomes in most human activities. In a few decades of space exploration, the planetary worlds were discovered exhibiting a totally unexpected diversity, contrasting with the huge commonalities of their origin. What drives the evolution of the planets and has triggered their uniqueness, primarily that of the Earth?

Mars plays a key role in addressing these questions and deciphering the relevant processes: It has been modeled by intense internal and surface activity, while preserving the diagnostic signatures of most steps of its history, that one can thus potentially access. In particular, the coupling between imagery and hyperspectral remote sensing, with the pioneering discoveries of OMEGA/Mars Express, has enabled an in-depth revisiting of Mars’s evolution at all time scales, with a special emphasis on the role liquid water might have played. Specific minerals archive the change over time of the Mars environment, started by an early era during which Mars might have harbored habitable conditions, identified through hydrated phyllosilicates. Then Mars faced a global climatic change, likely initiated by the drop of its magnetic dynamo. Most of its atmosphere escaped, preventing the further surface stability of liquid water; the evolutionary pathways of Mars and the Earth diverged.

While shedding new light on the specifics of our own planet, these results guide the future programs of Mars exploration. They will be conducted in a new framework. The sustained process of international cooperation that we initiated for Mars at the investigative level some decades ago has contributed to paving the way for structural agreements, in particular between NASA and the European Space Agency, toward new ways of conducting the scientific space exploration of Mars and of our solar system.

—Jean-Pierre Bibring, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Orsay, France

Roger J. Phillips received the Whipple Award at the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an out-standing contribution in the field of planetary science.



The recipient of the 2008 Whipple Award is Roger Phillips. This award is the highest honor bestowed by the Planetary Sciences section. It goes to a scientist who has had a tremendous positive impact on the field of planetary sciences, in terms of both the specific science results obtained over a career and the leadership exerted on the development of the discipline. Roger exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist in both of these areas. His research has included the geophysical development and interior structure of solid planets, starting with the interior structure of the Moon and including Venus and Mars; the integration of results from different fields as applied to the volatile and hydrological history of Mars; and most recently the subsurface structure of Mars. In these areas, he has been a leader in analyzing data obtained from spacecraft, in developing theoretical approaches that connect up to the observations, and in leading instrument teams in obtaining new measurements. This combina-tion of approaches exemplifies the best aspects of contributing as a planetary scientist.

Let me quote from one of the letters in support of his nomination: “Few people have had a greater influence on the field of planetary science. His career encompasses the full breadth of work required to advance planetary science. He has developed new means of probing the planets [and] new methods of interpreting the data, mentored many planetary scientists, and served on numerous NASA missions and advisory panels. He is extremely highly regarded throughout the field as a rigorous, creative, insightful scientist and a stimulating colleague.”

It is a pleasure to have collaborated with Roger. And it is a distinct privilege and honor to present him with the 2008 Whipple Award.

—Bruce Jakosky, University of Colorado, Boulder


Thanks very much, Bruce. I, too, greatly enjoyed our collaboration and hope that we can do it again sometime. It is an honor and a privilege to receive the Whipple Award, and I thank AGU and the Planetary Sciences section for this recognition.

Planetary science is largely a collaborative effort, and I have had the great fortune to be able to work with a number of very good (and often entertaining) people, for which my work has been all the better. This is a very long list, including, among others, Maria Zuber, Dave Smith, Sean Solomon, Stan Peale, Mike Mellon, Jim Head, Mike Malin, Ray Arvidson, Sue Smrekar, Matt Golombek, Bruce Campbell, Jeff Plaut, Roberto Seu, Steve Hauck, Brian Hynek, Mark Wieczorek, Than Putzig, Jeff Andrews-Hanna, Catherine Johnson, Norm Sleep, Erik Ivins, John Dvorak, and the late Bill Kaula. I have had the pleasure of working in the field of planetary science almost from its inception as measured by the dawn of NASA’s space missions. The fun has been the chance to combine theory with brand-new data from the planets, but this has also meant putting up sometimes with the drudgery of mission design and implementation. It has all been worth it. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of planetary science, I have been allowed to “follow the problem” rather than the discipline. This has often gotten me into trouble, but usually my colleagues have bailed me out.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife and best buddy, Rosanna Ridings, for, among other things, showing amazing patience as I flit from planet to planet.

—Roger J. Phillips, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Raymond E. Arvidson received the 2007 Whipple Award at the 2007 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.



The Planetary Sciences section presents with great pleasure the 2007 AGU Whipple Award to Ray Arvidson. Ray has participated in all Mars missions since Viking, and in Magellan. His vigorous and productive career has resulted in nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications on Earth, Mars, Venus, and the Moon, many of which are considered pivotal to our understanding of planetary processes. His topics include remote sensing of planetary surfaces and surface processes; he provided the first quantitative study of aeolian processes on Mars. Ray’s contributions are numerous and broadly applied. He played a major role in developing robotic techniques for the in situ exploration of Mars, in particular for the hugely successful MER mission. An AGU Fellow, Ray’s work has been recognized by numerous awards in the past. In addition to his scientific work, Ray has provided essential services to the community. His work in pioneering and standardizing planetary data archiving has been particularly recognized as outstanding. He has served on more than 30 NASA committees and was the secretary and the president of the AGU Planetary Sciences section. In addition, he has been an associate editor of JGR and an editor of Geology. He served on the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences and has been chair of its Committee on Data Management and Computation. Enthusiastic support for his nomination came from all over the world.

Ray is a true leader in the planetary sciences community.

—Tilman Spohn, Institut für Planetenforschung, Berlin


Receiving the 2007 Whipple Award and presenting the Whipple Lecture mean a great deal to me. First, I knew Fred Whipple because we were both principal investigators in the early NASA Planetary Geology Program. We both attended a number of the early meetings of researchers supported by the program. Fred was a gracious individual who was deeply interested in all aspects of solar system science, in addition to his fundamental interest in planetary astronomy and the characteristics and dynamics of comets. Thus, receiving an honor named after Fred Whipple is especially rewarding. Second, the award comes from the Planetology section, and that means from the community of researchers who know my work well and can comment on it with a deep understanding of how it affects our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces. This is particularly important to me.

My career has focused on understanding the nature and dynamics of planetary surfaces, including participating in the Magellan Radar Mapping Mission to Venus and helping understand surface dynamics on this interesting planet. The mountains of Venus were found to be covered with metal frost or snow, precipitated from the atmosphere on these relatively cold peaks. The plains have distal ejecta deposits that were carried leeward of the impact sites by regional winds, forming elongate features with interesting dielectric and roughness properties. These two examples illustrate the richness of the Magellan data, which are still being examined over a decade after the mission ended. I have also been fortunate to have worked on all Mars missions since Viking, with the exception of Pathfinder. In fact, Phoenix, scheduled to land on the northern plains of Mars on 25 May 2008, will be my fifth landed mission (Viking Landers 1 and 2; Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity). The existing landed data show that Mars maintains evidence of past lakes (dirty evaporates observed by Opportunity) and of extensive alteration by hydrothermal systems (sulfate and high silica deposits found by Spirit). Connecting to orbital observations using Mars Express OMEGA and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CRISM data shows many other examples where water has modified crustal rocks. This includes formation of phyllosilicates on the old Noachian cratered terrains and deposition of layered sulfates in Terra Meridiani and Valles Marineris. These relatively recent landed and orbital results bode well for Mars as a planet that was habitable and may have had or even today harbors life.

I have also participated in the development and implementation of NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS), from the development of the concept of distributed scientific data management units defined under the NRC’s Space Science Board in the 1980s, to directing the Geosciences Node of the PDS today (http://pds-geosciences.wustl.edu/). Archiving efforts have been particularly rewarding in that the PDS now works directly with data producers (investigators recovering or producing data) to ensure that products and documentation are produced, validated, put into the PDS, and made available to current and future communities of researchers. Part of my selection as the 2007 Whipple Award winner was to recognize these efforts. This is especially gratifying since much of the work is “behind the scenes” and does not lead to recognition through scientific discoveries and publications.

—Raymond E. Arvidson, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

John T Wasson


John A Wood


Thomas B McCord


Bruce C Murray


John B Adams


Gordon H Pettengill


David J Stevenson


Eugene Shoemaker


Fred L Whipple


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