Dolores H. Hill from the Lunar and Planetary Lab of the University of Arizona, Tucson is the recipient of the Citizen Science Champions of Change Award for her work on "Target Asteroids!"
"Target Asteroids!" is part of the communication and public engagement efforts of NASA's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer or OSIRIS-REx mission. Amateur astronomers will help better characterize the population of near-Earth objects, including their position, motion, rotation and changes in the intensity of light they reflect. Professional astronomers will use this information to refine theoretical models of asteroids, improving their understanding about asteroids similar to the one OSIRIS-REx will encounter, recently named asteroid (101955) Bennu.
Hill was honored on Tuesday, June 25 at a White House ceremony. According to the Champions of Change website, the Champions of Change event "honors people and organizations which have demonstrated exemplary leadership in engaging the broader, non-expert community in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) research."
The award highlights the importance of citizen science. Citizen science offers the public opportunities to contribute to cutting edge scientific research. For scientists, citizen science programs provide additional means to acquire, process and analyze data to achieve great results in research projects.
The OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program. OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016, rendezvous with asteroid (101955) Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona is the principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft.
NASA recently announced an agency Grand Challenge to find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them. It is an effort to reach beyond traditional boundaries and encourage partnerships and collaboration especially with citizen scientists with a variety of organizations to solve this global problem.
Part of NASA's Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes an asteroid strategy that will help protect the Earth, advance exploration capabilities and technologies for human spaceflight, and help better utilize space resources.
To read Dolores Hill's Champions of Change Blog, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/06/25/target-asteroids-citizen-science-tracking-near-earth-asteroids-science-and-humanity
More information about NASA's asteroid programs can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative