National Air and Space Museum’s Trophy Awarded to Peter Theisinger and the Kenn Borek Air South Pole Rescue Team

March 28, 2017
News Release

Addthis Share Tools

Arcing metallic sculpture "The Web of Space"

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum 2017 Trophy will be awarded to Peter Theisinger for Lifetime Achievement. In the category of Current Achievement, the Trophy will be awarded to the South Pole Rescue Team from Kenn Borek Air Ltd. The recipients will receive their awards March 29 at a black-tie dinner in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1985, the award recognizes outstanding achievements in the fields of aerospace science and technology and their history. As in past years, Trophy winners receive a miniature version of “The Web of Space,” a sculpture by artist John Safer.

“The winners of the 2017 Trophy have achieved daring feats of exploration and determination,” said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the museum. “The Kenn Borek Air team’s successful rescue mission recalls an earlier era of bold accomplishments, before aviation connected nearly every point on the globe. And Mr. Theisinger’s exceptional leadership pushed our country’s technological and scientific capabilities to new heights. Their successes make them most deserving of this award and will inspire new generations of pioneers and explorers.”

2017 Trophy Award Recipients

Throughout his 49-year career, Theisinger has led a number of major unmanned space science flight missions for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), including three successful Mars rover missions—Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity. The Curiosity mission was the most complex flight system in the history of robotic planetary exploration, received prestigious awards and garnered significant public interest for its successful landing in 2012. The two robotic geologists, Spirit and Opportunity, exceeded NASA’s expectations of lifespan and capabilities. Opportunity is still operating after 12 years of activity, including the discovery of proof for past water on Mars. The United States has been unmatched in its development of exploratory technology, and Theisinger has played a major role in this effort. Theisinger receives the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Trophy for his instrumental achievements in enhancing knowledge of the solar system, and particularly Mars, throughout his career.

The 2017 Current Achievement winner, Kenn Borek Air’s South Pole Rescue Team, successfully rescued two ill researchers from the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. In June 2016, chief pilot Wallace “Wally” Dobchuk, first officer Sebastian Trudel, aircraft maintenance engineer Michael McCrae, Capt. James Haffey, first officer Lindsay Owen, aircraft maintenance engineer Gerald Cirtwill and medics Thai Verzone and John Loomis made the rescue during the Antarctic winter, a flight only accomplished twice before, both by Kenn Borek Air. The mission presented numerous challenges such as the -75 degrees F temperature, complete darkness for 24 hours a day and equipping their Twin Otter aircraft for the 1,500-mile trip (its usual range is 800 miles). Through precise planning and execution, the rescue team overcame the many obstacles and successfully flew the ill researchers to a hospital in Chile where they received the treatment they desperately needed.

More information about the National Air and Space Museum Trophy and a complete list of past winners are available at Trophy.

The National Air and Space Museum Trophy event is made possible through the support of the Hillside Foundation, BAE Systems Inc., Atlas Air Worldwide, the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, L3 Technologies and Pratt & Whitney.

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

# # # 



Media Only

Alison Mitchell

(202) 633-2376

Nick Partridge

(202) 633-2373