Space Station Wins Prestigious Collier Trophy
The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-130 crew member on space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation.
Credit: NASA

The International Space Station program has won a prestigious aviation award — the 2009 Collier Trophy — in recognition of its strides in advancing aeronautics.

The prize was granted by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), and announced Wednesday.

'We are honored to receive this prestigious award," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate. ?We're proud of our past achievements to build and operate the space station, and we're excited about the future ? there's a new era ahead of potential groundbreaking scientific research aboard the station."

Five space agencies and 15 countries jointly operate the nearly complete International Space Station, which will mark the 10th anniversary of a continuous human presence in orbit later this year. The space station represents the largest and most complicated spacecraft ever built.

Designated as a national laboratory by Congress in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, the ISS provides microgravity conditions 220 miles (354 km) above the Earth's surface for research in many fields, including human life sciences, biological science, human physiology, physical and materials science, and Earth and space science.

A diverse six-person crew currently lives onboard the station, which possesses a mass of almost 800,000 lbs (363,000 kg) and a habitable volume of more than 12,000 cubic feet (340 cubic meters) — approximately the size of a five-bedroom home. The ISS uses state-of-the-art systems to generate solar electricity, recycle nearly 85 percent of its water and generate much of its own oxygen supply. Nearly 190 humans have visited the space station, now supporting its 22nd resident crew.

About 150 experiments are currently underway on the station, and more than 400 experiments have been conducted since research began nine years ago.

The international partner agencies — NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency — provide control centers and support teams that train and launch crews to the station, provide support for systems operations and coordinate the on-orbit research around the clock.

The NAA awards the Robert J. Collier Trophy annually "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year."

"I believe that the International Space Station is a wonderful example of what the Collier Trophy signifies: accomplishment, vision, and advancement in aerospace," said Walter Boyne, chairman of the NAA.

Robert Collier commissioned the trophy in 1910, to encourage the American aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautic development. Mr. Collier was an aviator, humanitarian, and sportsman, as well as a publisher whose family created the popular magazine Collier's Weekly.

In recognizing the worth and future of aviation, Mr. Collier proclaimed the ideal that, "the flying machine should be unselfishly and rapidly developed to its ultimate potential for economic advancement in America." Collier was the first person to purchase an airplane from the Wright brothers for personal use. He loaned his aircraft to the U.S. Army for flight evaluations at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, which led to the first military orders for a flying machine.

The International Space Station team nomination included NASA, The Boeing Company, Charles Stark Draper Labs, Honeywell Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, United Space Alliance, and United Technologies Corporation.

Other nominees for the 2009 Collier Trophy included: Aircell, Ares I-X Flight Test and Ares I design teams, C-5M Super Galaxy, Kandahar Airfield Operations team, MC-12W Project Liberty Enterprise team, SpaceX Falcon 1 development team, and John Warner and the Excalibur Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle.