Johns Hopkins APL Space Scientist Paxton Wins International Distinguished Service Award

Thu, 03/28/2024 - 14:14
Erin Copland

Larry Paxton, a space scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, has earned a 2024 International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Distinguished Service Award.

The award honors individuals for their contributions to the field of astronautics, as well as to the IAF. Paxton was lauded for his years of successfully organizing and chairing symposia for the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), an annual event co-sponsored by the IAF and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) attended by thousands of space industry professionals. These symposia include “Small Satellites for Space Science,” “Small Satellites for Earth Observation” and “Integrated Applications.”

“Larry is a great asset to both APL and the international space community,” said Jason Kalirai, APL’s mission area executive for Space Formulation. “He never hesitates to share his deep knowledge and broad experience in scientific and technical leadership.”

Paxton was also acknowledged for his diversity, equity and inclusion efforts among the scientific and engineering communities that attend the IAC.

“As leaders and organizers of the IAC, we were very aware of the need to create a broader, more inclusive space research community,” Paxton said, adding that IAA’s consideration of geography, generational connections and gender steers much of the meeting’s diversity planning.

“In terms of geography, at a typical IAC, you might see representatives from a hundred different countries in these sessions,” Paxton said. “You also try to make sure that the lessons we learned from 70 years of space exploration are transferred to the next generation. These elements, along with ensuring gender inclusivity, are what we consider when we think about the challenge of making sure that these IAC sessions are accessible and relevant.”

In addition to his IAF activities, Paxton has served as president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Space Physics and Aeronomy Section and on the Space Studies Board of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Today he serves as an editor of AGU’s flagship journal, AGU Advances, and belongs to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Paxton has also held a range of roles in his 30-plus years at APL. He has authored or co-authored over 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles, has been cited nearly 10,000 times by scientific papers, and has received three APL awards for projects or publications.

He also served as supervisor of the APL Space Exploration Sector’s Geospace and Earth Science Group and chief scientist for heliophysics, and he has led several APL internal innovation initiatives. He is currently the principal investigator for the Global Ultraviolet Imager on NASA’s Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission and the principal investigator for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s Special Sensor Ultraviolet Spectrographic Imager (SSUSI) instrument.

“I really enjoy working with people at all stages of their careers,” Paxton said. “When I first started at APL, there were all these senior people who I looked up to, and they helped me. So, I try to help other people wherever they are in their careers.”

Paxton noted that a key aspect of his mentorship style is encouraging other researchers to pursue membership in professional organizations.

“I hope that people recognize the opportunity to do more than just their job,” Paxton said. “It’s so important to get involved in the communities you work with, either within or outside of your organization. APL is incredibly supportive of this idea, of being connected to the outside environment. It gives you a broader perspective that you then bring to work.”