National Space Society Robert A. Heinlein Award

Robert Heinlein Portrait

The Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free spacefaring civilization. Their contributions can be in any form—such as scientific, technical, engineering, theoretical, written (fiction or nonfiction), political, philosophical, visionary, public relations, or mass media, economic or business, etc. or a combination of the above. Those individuals whose actions have involved personal, social, or financial risk are particularly meritorious. Do not exclude anyone from consideration if his contribution is in only one area, such as engineering.

The Award is named after author Robert A. Heinlein, widely recognized as the dean of science fiction writers, in memory of him and of his many contributions to the pro-space movement. These include serving as a Director of the L5 Society for about a decade. Living individuals, or those who have been deceased less than three years prior to the award date, and of any nationality, are eligible for this award. Previous award winners (listed below) are not eligible for this award again. Sen. John Glenn has asked previously that he be removed from consideration to give someone else a chance of getting the award.

All current NSS members in good standing are eligible to vote for this award. Each NSS chapter will also receive one ballot, which will be counted once, and then again for each additional block of 50 NSS members belonging to that chapter, up to a maximum of 4 blocks. Chapters may use a photocopy of a ballot. Each member or chapter should indicate 3 choices of award recipients, in order of decreasing preference. The winner is selected by a modified Australian weighted vote system. Your first choice gets 4 points, the second 2 points, and the third 1 point. During the ballot counting process, the point totals of eligible candidates received for all previous award years are decremented by 25% and then added to this year’s vote point totals. The individual with the highest number of total points will receive the award and will no longer be eligible for future awards.

nss heinlein award

The award consists of a miniature brass naval cannon mounted on a solid mahogany base with a brass plaque and an inlay of Italian black granite. The barrel is inscribed with one of Heinlein’s favorite acronyms “TANSTAAFL” (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). The award concept came from one of Heinlein’s classic novels, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and represents defiance of conventional wisdom when necessary (in modern terms, this means being able to “think outside of the box”).

Heinlein Award Winners:

  • 2022 – Lori Garver
  • 2018 – Freeman Dyson
  • 2016 – Dr. Jerry Pournelle
  • 2014 – Elon Musk
  • 2012 – Dr. Stephen Hawking
  • 2010 – Dr. Peter Diamandis
  • 2008 – Burt Rutan
  • 2006 – General Chuck Yeager
  • 2004 – Capt. James Lovell
  • 2002 – Robert Zubrin
  • 2000 – Neil Armstrong
  • 1998 – Dr. Carl Sagan
  • 1996 – Dr. Buzz Aldrin
  • 1994 – Dr. Robert H. Goddard
  • 1993 – Gene Roddenberry
  • 1991 – Dr. Wernher von Braun
  • 1990 – Sir Arthur C. Clarke
  • 1989 – Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill