Press Release

Rotary Gala Features Unsung Heroes of Space

By SpaceRef Editor
March 21, 2013
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When people think of achievements in space, they naturally think of astronauts or perhaps they picture spacecraft like the Mars Curiosity rover bravely exploring the unknown. But as any astronaut (or “Tweeting” rover) will tell you, it is the dedication of the workers on Earth that make their historic deeds possible.

To publically recognize these “unsung heroes” of the space program alongside the more well-known achievers, the Rotary National Awards for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation was formed by the Space Center Rotary Club back in 1985. This year, the Foundation will present its top award, the National Space Trophy (NST), to former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. They will also present a Space Communicator Award to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s News and Social Media Manager, Veronica McGregor (one of the “voices” of Mars Curiosity); and Stellar Awards to individuals and teams at the gala on Friday, April 26, at the Houston Hyatt Regency.

The RNASA Foundation’s Board of Advisors selects the NST honoree each year and represents a who’s who of government and corporate aerospace leaders, including former Trophy and Space Communicator Award recipients. Four RNASA advisors are part of this year’s program: The Space Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham will serve as the Master of Ceremonies; PBS NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien will present the Space Communicator Award to McGregor; Gemini/Apollo Astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan, USN (Ret.), will present the National Space Trophy to Hutchison, and Gemini/Apollo Astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford, USAF (Ret.), will present an OMEGA watch to Hutchison.

Four other RNASA advisors, three of whom were former NST recipients, are serving on the Stellar Awards Evaluation Panel that selects the winners from nominations received from industry and government based on whose accomplishments hold the greatest promise for furthering activities in space and the extent to which the nominee meets the goal of recognizing “unsung heroes.” The 2013 judges are Apollo Flight Directors Dr. Christopher Kraft Jr. and Dr. Glynn S. Lunney; Apollo and Shuttle Manager Arnold D. Aldrich; and new this year, former astronaut and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General Kevin Chilton, USAF (Ret.).

RNASA Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez said, “We received 35 government and 100 corporate nominations for awards this year.” The nominations came from ARES, ATK, Barrios, Bastion Technologies, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, DB Consulting, ERC, Jacobs, L-3 STRATIS, Lockheed Martin, MEI Technologies, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Oceaneering, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, SAIC, SGT, United Space Alliance, United States Air Force, United States Air Force Research Laboratory, and United Technologies Aerospace Systems. Please see for a list of individual and team names by affiliation.

The Stellar Award nominees and team representatives will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Johnson Space Center and a luncheon presentation by former NASA astronaut and current AIAA Executive Director Sandra Magnus, PhD, at the Clear Lake Hilton on April 26. Magnus flew on ISS assembly mission STS-112 in 2002; returned to the ISS on STS-126 to serve as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 18 from November 2008 until returning on STS-119 in March 2009. She was one of only four crewmembers on the final Space Shuttle flight, STS-135, in July 2011.

Stellar Awards Committee Chairman Jennifer Devolites, RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez, RNASA Committee NASA Liaison Duane Ross, and Space Center Rotary Club President Marilyn Musial will also address the nominees at the Stellar Awards luncheon. All nominees will be presented with framed certificates and attend the evening gala where the winners are announced.

The Stellar Award winners will receive engraved marble trophies generously sponsored by ATK. The trophies will be presented by NASA Astronauts Capt. Michael J. Foreman, USN (Ret.), and Nicole P. Stott.

Foreman, a veteran of five spacewalks, flew on STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-129 in November 2009. He’s currently assigned to the Exploration Branch of the Astronaut Office, working on the Commercial Crew Development Program.

Stott flew to the International Space Station (ISS) on STS-128 in August 2009 and served as a member of the Expeditions 20 and 21 crews before returning on STS-129 in November of that year. She also flew on STS-133 in 2011, the last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery.

The reception begins at 6 p.m. with music by pianist Victoria Reva-Dorsch. The welcome by Houston Mayor Annise Parker is at 7 p.m., followed by presentation of the colors by an all-female color guard from Clear Springs High School Army JROTC. The cadets are: Eryn Behne, Amber Carter, Erial Marshall, and Deanna McFeron. Dr. David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church, will do the invocation. After dinner, the awards ceremony will kick off with a multimedia show summarizing the year’s space events produced by Space City Films.

The black-tie gala is open to the public. Individual tickets are $300, and corporate tables range from $2,000 to $5,000. To make reservations, visit or contact RNASA Vice Chairman Bill Taylor at 281-488-2733 by March 29.

SpaceRef staff editor.