Elon Musk to Receive Stephen Hawking Communication Prize from Astrophysicist Brian May

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk discusses the company's successful Falcon Heavy rocket test launch.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk discusses the company's successful Falcon Heavy rocket test launch. (Image credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk — hot off the second successful flight of his gigantic Falcon Heavy rocket in April — is one of the recipients of a prize for science communication.

Musk will receive the 2019 Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, with the prize being awarded about a year after Hawking —  the famous scientist and cosmologist best known for his work on black holes and the structure of the universe — died at age 76.  Musk's medal will be presented by rock star astrophysicist Brian May, who also is a guitarist for Queen. 

Musk originally founded SpaceX with the vision of bringing humans to Mars, which he is still working on doing through various Martian rocket architecture plans. He has aggressively pursued reusable rockets and spacecraft to lower the costs of spaceflight and an eventual Mars mission. 

Related: How Elon Musk Plans to Build a Million-Person Martian City 

Today, his company's self-landing Falcon 9 rockets regularly bring spacecraft to the International Space Station and satellites into space. His Falcon Heavy rocket, which can lift even more mass to space than the Falcon 9, has successfully completed two flights. SpaceX is now working on a human-rated version of its spacecraft, called Dragon, which could carry NASA astronauts to space as early as this year.

However, Musk has gotten in trouble occasionally for his communications work. For example, he fell under scrutiny (and paid a fine) after the Security and Exchange Commission examined tweets about another of his companies, Tesla. Musk also appeared to smoke weed on comedian Joe Rogan's podcast in September 2018, an action that, according to the Washington Post, prompted a NASA safety review of SpaceX as well as Boeing — the two companies scheduled to carry NASA astronauts into orbit.

According to a new statement, other recipients of this year's prize include:

Musk and the other recipients will receive their medals in a ceremony on June 24 at the Starmus V science communications festival in Zurich.  Science television personality Bill Nye will host the event. Attendees will include Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, and six other Apollo astronauts, according to the statement. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace