No planet beckons explorers like Mars, and no one has inspired more people with the mystique of the Red Planet than famed science fiction author Ray Bradbury. The Planetary Society will recognize Bradbury's contribution by awarding him The Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars at The Planetary Society's 25th Anniversary Gala Awards Dinner: Our Next Age of Exploration on November 12, 2005.
"This award comes at the right time," said Bradbury. "I've got my grips packed, and I'm ready to leave for Mars!"
Ray Bradbury has been whisking readers to Mars and other distant reaches of the universe for more than half a century. Many of the scientists and engineers now engaged in planetary exploration were first introduced to alien worlds in Bradbury's short stories and novels, including his famous Martian Chronicles.
"Bradbury has taken a generation of us to Mars through his writings," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "When the first men and women step onto Martian soil, they will be following his lead. Humanity will owe a debt of gratitude to Ray Bradbury for helping shape the vision that took us there."
A long-time advisor of The Planetary Society, Bradbury has appeared frequently on the Society's behalf at public events. In fact, the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor teams received their own Paine Awards at "An Evening on Mars with Ray Bradbury" at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1998.
Bradbury's celebrated works include Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and I Sing the Body Electric! He has written for the theater, film, and television, including The Ray Bradbury Theater, and has authored more than thirty books, close to 700 short stories, and numerous poems and essays. His latest book, Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars, a collection of essays and anecdotes, was published in August 2005.
Thomas O. Paine served on The Planetary Society's Board of Directors for many years and was NASA Administrator at the time of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and later served as Chair of President Reagan's National Commission on Space. A tireless advocate of sending humans to explore Mars, Paine even designed a Mars flag that he hoped humans would one day raise on the Red Planet. When Paine passed away in 1992, The Planetary Society honored his commitment to Mars by establishing The Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars.
The first recipients of the Paine Award, as it came to be called colloquially, were planetary scientist Christopher McKay and then-NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. Subsequent winners include Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan, the astronauts and cosmonauts of Apollo-Soyuz, and the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor teams.
Bradbury will accept the award on November 12 at The Planetary Society's 25th Anniversary Awards Gala Dinner at the world-renowned Santa Anita Park. Ann Druyan, widow of Society co-founder Carl Sagan, will chair the dinner. Actor Nichelle Nichols, a long-time Planetary Society supporter, will read a selection from Bradbury's Martian Chronicles during the dinner program.
On hand will be luminaries from the space community, including Buzz Aldrin, Society Officers Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., and Louis Friedman. Filmmaker James Cameron will also be present to receive the inaugural Cosmos Award for the Public Presentation of Science from The Planetary Society. Northrop Grumman Corporation is the Presenting Sponsor for the dinner, and is joined by other sponsors, including SpaceX, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Raytheon.