The University of Arizona won the Governor's Innovator of the Year Award in the academia category for leading NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission.
"We had our fingers crossed, and butterflies in our stomachs, and were overjoyed when we were selected," said Peter Smith of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Phoenix Mission principal investigator. Smith accepted the prize at the Governor's Celebration of Innovation Awards gala held last night in Phoenix.
"It was my joy as project leader to collect the award, but this prize is a testimony to fine work by the whole team," he added. "It's been a great mission."
"The UA is proud that the Phoenix Mars Mission has been recognized for the second consecutive year with a Governor's Award for Innovation," said UA Provost Meredith Hay, who also attended the ceremonies. "The scientists, engineers and students who ran the mission from Tucson deserve great credit for running the first university-led Mars mission so successfully."
Over the past few weeks, the Phoenix Mars Mission has been given the 2008 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for innovation, the 2008 Civil Space Award from the California Space Authority, the 2008 National Space Club Astronautics Engineer Award, and Popular Science magazine's 2008 "Best of What's New" Grand Award in the aviation and space category.
The mission previously won the 2007 Arizona Governor's Innovation Award in the academia category.
The annual awards event, which honors technology and innovation leaders statewide, also includes a technology showcase featuring the finalists' innovations.
"We were thrilled to have been honored by the Governor's Celebration of Innovation last year. Our mission to Mars this year has definitely demonstrated the innovative capabilities of the entire Phoenix Mars team," Smith said. "Basing the mission at The University of Arizona has showcased the state's leadership in planetary exploration."
The award in the academia category is presented to a department or office within an accredited higher education institution that has achieved success in the past calendar year and which has contributed to the economic development within Arizona through teaching, research or other academic pursuits.
The UA is the first public university to lead a mission to Mars.
Now in its sixth year, the Governor's Celebration of Innovation is the largest statewide awards gathering of technology companies in Arizona that recognizes companies, individuals and academic organizations that demonstrate excellence in innovative technological advancement.
The Governor's Celebration of Innovation is presented by the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Department of Commerce.
The Phoenix mission is led by Smith with project management at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, located in Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.