Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Kind of a big deal over here, our very own rocket scientist (Jonathan Sauder *name drop*) was recognized for his ground breaking work on some super cool space stuff.


He found out in early July his nomination a few years ago had landed him the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for his work on both the RainCube antenna enabling radar in a CubeSat and the mechanical rover for Venus through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant. As the NASA press release put it, he was recognized “for demonstrating innovative technologies to enable a new class of space missions”. He’s basically super awesome.

Just after the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we found ourselves dropping off our big boys with relatives for a few days and boarding a plane to Washington D.C. with our own 0.5-year-old baby Apollo for the big award ceremony.


In a ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall the next day, Jonathan and the other 300+ awardees were honored by the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The scientists and engineers came from quite a few national organizations, from the National Science Foundation to the Intelligence Community to the Department of Defense, and because it’s especially for early career research there were many families in attendance. I almost wished our other rocket babies could have come along, until it was Jonathan’s turn to cross the stage and juggling the baby and the camera was challenging enough without adding rambunctious brothers to the mix.

Later that day NASA Headquarters also hosted a ceremony to honor the 18 NASA awardees. Ollie and I beamed and clapped again as Jonathan crossed the stage to receive the framed award certificate.

I am so proud of him. He works hard, at a fun job, but a job nevertheless. Plenty of what he does is still daily grind and often challenging work! He puts in long hours, still experiences stress, some projects are more fun than others. To see his hard work recognized and rewarded is such a delight, an absolute joy! As he says, of course there are many colleagues of his who deserve this award and didn’t get it. He works with some incredible people. Smart, hard-working, dedicated people! He sees this recognition as an absolute grace, a gift, definitely an encouraging reminder to appreciate the team of people at Jet Propulsion Laboratory with whom he gets to work on exciting projects like new, cheaper satellites and clockwork-style steampunk rovers for super-hot, high-pressure planets.


Also, a reason to spend a few days exploring our nation’s capital is always fun! We lugged our heavy baby around the National Mall, taking in the monuments. We zoomed through a couple Smithsonian museums between award ceremonies. Can I just mention I’m extremely disappointed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum? As I mentioned, we were there the week of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic mission to the moon and not only were there no special displays for the momentous occasion, even the regular Apollo mission hall was closed for renovations. What a missed opportunity! I was more than a little bummed.

It felt right to be thinking of the massive NASA team that sent mankind to the moon in the 1960’s as Jonathan was recognized for his achievements as a NASA engineer. Did you know the average age of mission control during the Apollo era was 26? Part of the reason we got there was because of a generation of scientists and engineers, computer scientists and technologists who were too young and idealistic to believe it couldn’t be done and tenacious enough to put in the extra hours to meet President Kennedy’s challenge. When they say all they remember doing is working, I believe it! Space exploration is challenging work. And important work! Landing people on the moon and bringing them home, didn’t just end the Space Race, it united the nation and the world in a troubled, divided decade and helped us see our own planet in a new light with fresh eyes. I, for one, think we could use a little more of that today, and the outstanding individuals like the PECASE award winners are an inspiring step in that direction.


Congratulations, Jonathan! Our rocket babies and I are so proud of you!




4 thoughts on “Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

  1. Janine Rocke

    Congratulations, Jonathan, and to your whole family! What a grace! A gift that you’ve been entrusted with! Good write-up, too! Love, Janine


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