Does passion for science declare itself early? If the winners of this year’s Discover Awards are a gauge, fascination with science flares in youth, and it needs only wisps of encouragement to survive. For example, a 7-year-old in Venezuela heard about Sputnik and began to build rocket ships out of cardboard boxes. Today he has flown seven shuttle missions. A 12-year-old saw Alan Shepard strapped into his space suit for blastoff. His father bought him a $3 telescope, and three decades later he helped save the Hubble Space Telescope. Another boy didn’t have enough money to buy the telescope he wanted, so he got a book of instructions and, with his dad’s help, built one in 18 months. In 1996 he and his collaborator shattered our notion that we are special when they found planets orbiting other stars. There’s a lesson here: Buy a telescope for any child you catch watching the stars.
Space Explorer: Franklin Chang-Díaz
Aerospace: Ed Weiler
Technology for Humanity: Robert Fischell
Space Scientist: Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler
Communication: Harold Rosen