Press Release

Johns Hopkins APL ‘Mars Explorers’ Receive NASA Awards

By SpaceRef Editor
July 26, 2011
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Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., principal investigator for the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument, has been awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor that NASA bestows to an individual working outside the government. Additionally, both the CRISM instrument and science teams were awarded the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award.

CRISM is an instrument that has operated aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) since that spacecraft went into orbit around Mars in 2006. CRISM’s ability to identify minerals such as clays (phyllosilicates) played a major role in the discovery of past and present water on the Martian surface.

The NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal is granted to people who contribute substantially to the NASA mission. Murchie received the award for his leadership of CRISM, the most powerful mineral-mapper ever sent to Mars. He received his award from NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden during a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 30.

Murchie is the second APL staffer to win this prestigious award, sharing the honor with the late assistant director Richard B. Kershner, the first head of APL’s Space Department. In addition to his work on CRISM, Murchie also helped to develop a camera for MESSENGER, the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury, and he was part of the imaging team for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, which was the first to orbit and land on an asteroid.

“I’m incredibly flattered by this honor from NASA, which is really an acknowledgement of the fine team of people I work with on CRISM, as well as on MESSENGER and, a decade ago, on NEAR,” Murchie said. “APL has a great team mentality, and it’s an honor to be part of that.”

In a separate ceremony on July 19, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Andy McGovern, CRISM project manager from APL, accepted the award for the instrument team, which was honored for developing and operating CRISM, and processing and distributing the resulting data. APL’s Frank Seelos, science operations lead, accepted the science team’s award for its work analyzing CRISM’s data and publishing the results, thus advancing the understanding of the Martian surface, its composition and its evolution.

APL provided and operates CRISM, one of six instruments on MRO. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the MRO project and the Mars Exploration Program for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more about CRISM, see For more about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.