IAF 2018 Award Recipients

Each year, during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), the IAF rewards high-level space stakeholders through awards such as the :

  • Allan D. Emil Memorial Award that recognises an eminent person for an outstanding contribution or contributions in space which involved the participation of more than one nation and/or which furthered the possibility of greater international cooperation in astronautics,
  • IAF Hall of Fame that recognises eminent individuals who have contributed substantially during the course of their careers to the progress of astronautics within the framework of the IAF activities.
  • Frank J. Malina Astronautics Medal that recognises outstanding contributions to space education by an educator who promotes the study of astronautics and space science

The IAF is proud to introduce the 2018 Award recipients!



Xia Guohong

Dr. XIA Guohong from Jintan, Jiangsu Province, China was born in October 1939, and is a reseacher. Being the former General Manager of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and the former Vice President of the Chinese Society of Astronautics, Professer XIA is a member of the Scientific Committee of China Satellite Navigation Conference (CSNC), the Control Theory Committee of Chinese Association of Automation and the expert committee of the Beidou Project of China. When Dr. XIA acted as the Vice Director of China National Space Administration, he organized experts to work out China space technology development plan for the 20th century; as a representative of China Aerospace, he participated in the international space cooperation research, and he had made outstanding contributions to the international space technology cooperation and aerospace industry. When he worked as the General Manager of CASIC, he pioneered the small satellite and small career rocket R&D, so he is an advocator and founder in CASIC’s developing the aerospace industry. He pioneered GPS and FLONASS compitable chip R&D in China through joint venture with the Russian Space Agency, and up to now, he has contributed significantly to the space industry. He once acted as general commander in technology in multiple national key projects, accomplished those missions successfully, and got multiple state science and technology progress awards.



Long Lehao

Long Lehao, Technical expert of launch vehicle, Researcher, Academician of Chinese academy of engineering, the chief designer of launch vehicle series for China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). Former vice president and director of Science and Technology Committee of CALT, the chief designer and commander of China Launch Vehicle, the deputy chief designer for the China first Lunar Exploration Engineering Program. He was in charge of the development of CZ-3A, which is the most commonly used rocket till now in China.

He has been honored numerous national, provincial and ministerial level awards (including 2 National Science and Technology Progress Awards), for instance, Science and Technology Progress Awards of Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation, National Outstanding Professional Technical Talent Awards and National May 1st Labor Medal, etc…


Barbara Ryan

Barbara J. Ryan, is the Secretariat Director of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in Geneva, Switzerland. GEO is comprised of nearly 104 Member States, the European Commission, and 126 international scientific and technical partner organizations, including IAF.

Under Ryan’s leadership, millions of satellite images and other Earth observation data have been made available to the general public at no charge, allowing scientists, planners and policy makers to make better-informed decisions on problems that transcend political boundaries. Her work addresses critical issues in agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, disaster planning, energy, health and water.

Since becoming Director of GEO in 2012, Ryan has worked to integrate Earth observation systems from around the world into a single, comprehensive system that uses coordinated data to understand how environmental factors impact human life. Like Ryan’s career body of work, the system helps guide decision makers toward better agricultural, energy and land-use decisions.

After graduating from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland with a degree in geology in 1974, Ryan joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the nation’s largest civilian mapping agency. She became an expert in groundwater contamination and eventually was selected as staff assistant to the Department of the Interior’s top official for water and science.

Ryan advanced steadily in the USGS, earning master’s degrees in geography from the University of Denver and in civil engineering from Stanford University along the way. As associate director for geography at the USGS, she was responsible for the agency’s remote sensing, geography and civilian mapping programmes, including the Landsat satellites. It was during this time she led the effort to change the decade-old Landsat data policy to full and open, an action resulting in more than 72 million scenes being downloaded globally to date. Ryan has served as chair of the international Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, which coordinates information from more than 100 civilian satellite missions, and in 2008 became director of the World Meteorological Organization’s space programme. Ryan has been awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree from SUNY Cortland. She was recently named an Honorary Fellow of the American Geographical Society, and in January 2017, was one of 10 global Leaders to be named to the Geospatial World Forum’s Hall of Fame.


Joan Vernikos

Dr. Vernikos is leading research to the right path for future Space missions. She first developed a unique device, a human powered centrifuge as the most efficient countermeasure to microgravity conditions and no other has been evidenced so far. She was the mentor of most astronauts, being there when they needed her, resolving most of their problems and dared to sent John Glenn at age 77 into Space. She contributed substantially during the course of her career to the progress of space science, space technology, and management of space projects and space benefits to mankind within the framework of the IAA/IAF activities.

She is an active member of IAA with significant achievements. After her retirement she is sharing her experience and knowledge with advising Space research committees and spreads this knowledge all over the world, writing several books translated in many languages and giving lectures internationally on healthy aging, leading the third age activities. She is a famous leader and needs to be recognized by our community.


Kiyoshi Higuchi

Kiyoshi Higuchi is former IAF President and former JAXA Vice-President. He took office in April 2010 to provide general oversight and overall coordination of JAXA activities and retired from JAXA in 2015.

From the very beginning of his career, Higuchi has been always at the center of Japan’s efforts to advance the development of space technology and its applications and to pursue space exploration.

Higuchi was born in 1946 in Mie Prefecture, Japan. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Nagoya University and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1977.

Higuchi started his career in 1969 with the Science and Technology Agency of the Government of Japan. Upon the establishment of the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) that year, he joined NASDA as an engineer to be involved in developing sounding rockets and H-series rockets.

From the early 1980’s, he started to play a key role in the Japanese participation in the International Space Station (ISS) Programme. Higuchi helped establish the International Utilisation Coordination Working Group (IUCWG), to strengthen collaboration among ISS partners in utilising ISS.

From the mid-1990’s, he became increasingly involved in the overall planning and management of NASDA. When NASDA merged with the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), to establish JAXA in 2003, he facilitated the efforts to bring these distinctive organisations with different cultures to work together as one. Under his leadership, JAXA also focused its efforts on strengthening its capacity in system engineering as well as in safety and mission assurance. Higuchi also made substantive contributions to the development of JAXA’s long-term vision, “JAXA 2025”, released in 2009, that provides a roadmap for the next 20 years.



David B. Spencer

Dr. David Spencer is a Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.  His research areas include: spacecraft dynamics and controls, trajectory optimization, space systems engineering, and theoretical and applied astrodynamics.

He is a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, an Associate Fellow of the AIAA, and a Corresponding Member of the IAA.

Dr. Spencer received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky, an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University, an M.B.A. from Penn State, and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder.