Planetary Society President and Popular Blogger Win Awards

For Immediate Release
October 03, 2011

Mat Kaplan
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

The Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding public communication by a planetary scientist has gone to one of the late Dr. Sagan’s students. Dr. James Bell of Arizona State University has turned beautiful pictures taken on the surface of Mars into best-selling books. Bell, who is President of the Planetary Society (a role Sagan held until his death in 1996), was celebrated at an October 3 ceremony for his many years of communicating his passion for the exploration of space to the public.

Formerly of Cornell University, Dr. Bell is now a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. He is also the lead scientist for the Pancam color imaging system on the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. He has written two books about his Mars work: Postcards from Mars and Mars 3-D: A Rover's Eye View of the Red Planet.

Dr. Bell will be in good company at the annual conference of the DPS, October 2 to 7, 2011 in Nantes, France. Emily Lakdawalla is the first woman and the first new media journalist to win the Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the DPS. Lakdawalla, a planetary geologist and the Planetary Society’s Science and Technology Coordinator, blogs nearly every day about new discoveries and research in planetary sciences.

Through her Planetary Society blog and Tweets (@elakdawalla), Lakdawalla works tirelessly to communicate both the hard science and the wonders of the solar system. The Eberhart Award honors her 2009 blog posting entitled "The Phoebe Ring." This engaging and stimulating article sheds light on the discovery by astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope of a previously unseen ring around Saturn that shares the same orbit as its moon Phoebe. It can be found here.

Ms. Lakdawalla is deeply honored to be recognized by the scientists whose work she covers. "They are making new discoveries every day, changing our view of the solar system, looking through the eyes of robots,” she commented. "The public can be brought along on these adventures, but only if someone translates scientists' technical language into terms that are easier to understand. That the scientists chose to recognize me with this award indicates that they trust me to tell their stories well. I am so honored by that trust.”

Planetary Society Executive Director Bill Nye (The Science Guy) could not be prouder of the honorees. "These two wonderful communicators richly deserve this honor from their peers,” Nye said. "They personify the mission of the Planetary Society as they share the P, B and J -- the passion, beauty and joy of planetary science.”

The Carl Sagan Medal was established by the DPS to recognize and honor outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist that is directed to the general public. It is awarded to scientists whose efforts have significantly contributed to public understanding of, and enthusiasm for, planetary science.

The Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award was created by the DPS in honor of the late Jonathan Eberhart -- a writer for Science News magazine -- to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on planetary sciences. Both prizes included cash awards for the recipients.

About The Planetary Society

With a global community of more than 2 million space enthusiasts, The Planetary Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization. Founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman and today led by CEO Bill Nye, we empower the public to take a meaningful role in advancing space exploration through advocacy, education outreach, scientific innovation, and global collaboration. Together with our members and supporters, we’re on a mission to explore worlds, find life off Earth, and protect our planet from dangerous asteroids. To learn more, visit