Sagan Award Goes To Committee Chaired by Carnegie's Alan Dressler

Portrait of Alan DresslerPasadena, CA—Over 20 years ago, Carnegie astronomer emeritus Alan Dressler chaired the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Beyond Committee. It has been awarded the 2017 Carl Sagan Memorial Award presented at the meeting of the American Astronautical Society March 7-9 in Greenbelt, Maryland.

In the mid-1990s, the committee was tasked with determining the best goals to pursue beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s useful life. They determined that the HST should be operated longer than originally scheduled, that NASA should develop a large aperture infrared space telescope, and the capacity for space interferometry—a method to measure the interference of different waves for highly accurate results.  

The award stated that “the 1994/95 study and subsequent published report is widely recognized as the original and most influential activity that led directly to the development of NASA's premier space observatory of the early 21st Century, the James Webb Space Telescope.”

“What is most gratifying to me is that people remember and point to the passionate tone of the HST & Beyond Report, the theme of ‘origins,’ and the emphasis on ‘sharing the journey with the public, ’" remarked Dressler. “These were all innovative for such a report, where the traditional presentation was almost exclusively science in its most objective practice.”

The Sagan award is given to a person or team “who has demonstrated leadership in research or policies advancing exploration of the Cosmos."

Dressler studies galaxy evolution, the changes in galaxy structure and form, and the pace and nature of star birth. He further remarked, “Our report has had substantial impact on the direction of NASA astrophysics over the last 20 years. I think of it as one of the high points of my career.”

Carnegie Observatories director John Mulchaey said, “Although Carnegie astronomers are a small group, awards like this one show that our level of influence in the astronomical community is remarkably large. Congratulations to Alan and this group on this prestigious honor.”
Each committee member will receive a certificate of the award.


The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), is a non-profit organization, operates the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) under contract for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).