Wargo Award


The Michael J. Wargo Exploration Science Award is an annual award given by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to a scientist or engineer who has significantly contributed to the integration of exploration and planetary science throughout their career. The prize is presented, along with an invited lecture, at the annual Exploration Science Forum held each July at NASA Ames Research Center.

Past Winners

Michael J. Wargo, received by Ms. Adele Morrissette 2014
Clive R. Neal 2015
Dana Hurley 2016
Lawrence Taylor 2017
David Kring 2018
Wendell Mendell 2019
Mark Robinson 2020
Darlene Lim 2021

About Michael Wargo

Dr. Michael Wargo (1951-2013) was an outgoing and strong advocate for the integration of science, engineering and technology. As a professor at MIT, he was awarded the John Wulff Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund prize for exhibiting leadership and creativity while maintaining exceptionally broad and interdisciplinary interests. In a nearly two-decade career at NASA, he received numerous awards including NASA's Exceptional Service Medal and seven group achievement awards.

Serving as Chief Exploration Scientist for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Mike worked closely with planetary researchers, especially in the lunar and Mars science communities, to develop collaborative and highly productive missions. As a scientific member of many lunar missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCROSS satellite, Mike helped map resources for human missions to the Moon and participated in the discovery of ice in the shadows of lunar craters. He was a member of the team planning the next robotic mission to Mars in 2020 and worked gathering crucial scientific information needed to allow humans to be sent safely to the moon, Mars and near-Earth asteroids. Much of his work has helped develop a "roadmap" for human and robotic space exploration for the next two decades.

Mike served as the Executive Secretary of LEAG and championed the Moon at NASA Headquarters for several years. He provided guidance and insight to the direction of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and the creation of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. His encyclopedic knowledge of science and exploration issues related to human spaceflight was legendary, and he freely advised the next generation of planetary scientists and engineers. Mike was a shining example of collaboration and open communication that has inspired many scientists and engineers.

Call for Nominations

The Director of SSERVI is responsible for selecting the recipients of the Michael J. Wargo Exploration Science Award. Recommendations from the community are strongly encouraged. The prize is open to the entire science community, including SSERVI team members and Principal Investigators. Nominations for the medal are welcome from anyone at any time, but should be submitted no later than March 7 for consideration in that calendar year. The nomination should summarize the contributions of the nominee and clearly state the qualifications and rationale for their selection (2000 characters; weblinks may amend the nomination). Nominees should be relatively senior scientists who have significantly contributed to advancements in lunar and/or asteroid studies, including research that relates the Moon, the Moons of Mars, or near-Earth asteroids. Advancements in our understanding of relevant comparative planetology issues can also be submitted to strengthen a nomination. The recipients do not need to reside in the U.S. or be a U.S. citizen. Nominees who are not selected will automatically become candidates for future consideration.