The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has announced the recipients of the 2024 Michael Collins Trophy, honoring exceptional achievements in aerospace science and technology. This year’s awardees include NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and the team behind the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.
Peggy Whitson’s Lifetime Achievement: Peggy Whitson, the first woman commander of the International Space Station, has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for her distinguished career in space exploration. Whitson holds the record for the most time spent in space by an American and a woman, with a total of 675 days. She also has the most spacewalks by a female astronaut. Her leadership roles include commanding the space station during Expeditions 16 and 51 and serving as the first female and nonmilitary head of NASA’s astronaut office. Whitson retired from NASA in 2018 but continued her space journey by commanding Axiom Space’s Ax-2 mission in 2023.
DART’s Current Achievement Award: The DART team is celebrated with the Current Achievement Award for their groundbreaking planetary defense test mission. Launched in November 2021, DART successfully impacted the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos in September 2022. The mission demonstrated a kinetic impactor technique, altering Dimorphos’ orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos by 33 minutes. This achievement marks a significant advancement in developing methods to deflect potentially dangerous asteroids from Earth.
The Michael Collins Trophy: Named after Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, the trophy recognizes outstanding accomplishments in aerospace. Recipients receive a miniature version of “The Web of Space” sculpture by artist John Safer. The award ceremony is scheduled for March 21, 2024, at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
The 2024 Michael Collins Trophy recipients, Peggy Whitson and the DART team, have made extraordinary impacts on space exploration. Their achievements not only advance scientific knowledge but also shape our approach to planetary defense and space exploration for years to come.