The Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit and Opportunity) team received the Distinguished Science Award from the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Club. The award recognizes outstanding contributions in research and discovery that expand knowledge and understanding of space. The award was presented on September 12, 2019, at the annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Ray Arvidson, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the mission’s deputy PI, said, “This latest award does more than just add to our other awards and laurels. It is a special award in that the rover mission is now history, and this award caps the amazing legacy of exploration and discovery accomplished using the two rovers.” Arvidson further noted, “Spirit and Opportunity were sent to Mars to ‘follow the water.’ They succeeded in finding evidence for sustained water billions of years ago both on and beneath the red planet’s surface.”
The award was accepted by Aileen Yingst, a senior scientist with the Planetary Science Institute, on behalf of the MER team and sent to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA for display. This latest accolade joins numerous others the MER team has received over the years, including Aviation Week's Laureate Award in 2019; American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Haley Space Flight Award in 2012; International Space Ops Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2010; Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Best Team Achievement in 2007; and NASA's Group Achievement Award in 2004, 2008, and 2014.