The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has bestowed this honor annually since 1985, recognizing outstanding achievements in aerospace science and technology.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and the DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) team have clinched the prestigious Michael Collins Trophy for their stellar contributions to space exploration
Whitson, the trailblazing first woman commander of the International Space Station, garners the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award for her unparalleled spaceflights and illustrious career. Simultaneously, the DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, initiated in November 2021, secures the 2024 Current Achievement Award for its groundbreaking impact on the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos on Sept. 26, 2022. Chris Browne, the museum’s director, acknowledges the recipients’ extraordinary impacts on the past, present, and future of space exploration.
Whitson’s remarkable space feats, including 10 spacewalks, 289 consecutive days on a single mission, and a cumulative 675 days in space, position her as one of the nation’s most accomplished scientist astronauts. She holds records for the most spacewalks by a female and served as the first female commander of the space station twice.
Whitson retired in 2018 but made history in 2023 as the first woman to command a private space mission with Axiom Space’s Ax-2 launch on May 21
DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test, NASA‘s inaugural planetary defense test mission, successfully altered the orbit of Dimorphos around the larger asteroid Didymos on Sept. 26, 2022. The DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test team received the 2024 Michael Collins Trophy for Current Achievement, recognizing their work in developing and managing the mission.
The DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test team’s goal was to change Dimorphos’ orbit by at least 73 seconds using a “kinetic impactor” technique, ultimately achieving a 33-minute alteration. Browne emphasizes that just as Whitson’s achievements expanded scientific knowledge, the DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test team’s engineering capabilities will influence planetary defense approaches for years.
Recipients of the Michael Collins Trophy, presented in the form of a miniature “The Web of Space” sculpture by artist John Safer, will be honored on March 21, 2024, at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.