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Stern appointed to National Science Board


November 21, 2018

Niwot resident Dr. Alan Stern has been appointed by President Donald Trump to become a member of the National Science Board (NSB). One of five new members to join the board, Stern will serve a six-year term through May 2024.

Other appointees are scientists Maureen L. Condic of Utah, Suresh V. Garimella of Indiana, Steven Leath of Alabama, and Stephen Willard of Maryland.

Stern is the associate vice president and special assistant to the president of Southwest Research Institute headquartered in Boulder. The distinguished planetary scientist leads New Horizons, a NASA mission to Pluto, now on its way to the Kuiper Belt.

The policymaking arm of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the NSB also counsels the president and the U.S. Congress on matters involving science and engineering. The 24-member board is responsible for steering NSF’s strategic direction, including approving its annual budget and facility projects. According to the NSF website, members of the board are selected because of their “eminence in research, education, and records of distinguished service.”

Stern, who earned a doctorate degree in astrophysics and planetary science at the University of Colorado (1989), has been the principal investigator of 14 missions. This year he was awarded the National Award of Nuclear Science and History and the Lowell Thomas Award, which honors individuals who engineer groundbreaking expeditions and expeditionary science.

Southwest Institute’s website reads, “In 2016 and 2007, TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the year. The American Astronomical Society awarded him its Carl Sagan Memorial Award in 2016, and he received the 2016 NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the space agency’s highest civilian honor. The New Horizons mission, which he leads for NASA, was named among the top science news stories of 2015 by Discover Magazine and Science News, among other distinctions, and has itself been honored with numerous awards.”

Released this year, “Chasing New Horizons”, Stern and co-author David Grinspoon’s book documents the incredible journey of the New Horizons project from inception to launch and beyond.

New Horizon’s mission is scheduled to reach another milestone on Jan. 1, 2019, when it will earn the distinction of attaining the furthest flyby in history. It is headed to the Kuiper Belt where it will encounter the Ultima Thule object in what is termed the “third zone” of our solar system.


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