The SETI Institute has announced that Dr. John Rummel will receive the prestigious 2023 Drake Award, recognising his extraordinary and innovative programmatic contributions and unwavering advocacy for SETI and astrobiology.


Source: SETI Institute

Dr. John Rummel

Rummel’s illustrious career has included roles at NASA Headquarters, where he served as Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, Planetary Protection Officer, Deputy Chief of the Mission from Planet Earth Study Office, and Program Scientist for SETI/High Resolution Microwave Survey.

The institute said that despite sometimes facing significant opposition, Rummel has been an unwavering supporter of SETI science and funding, working to ensure the field’s recognition as an important scientific discipline. These and his other contributions to astrobiology, planetary protection and space policy have left a lasting impact on current and future space exploration and use by both robots and humans.

Profound legacy

Named in honor of Dr. Frank Drake, the SETI Institute’s first president of its Board of Trustees and renowned creator of the Drake Equation, the Drake Award celebrates outstanding achievements in SETI and astrobiology. Drake, often called the father of SETI, conducted the pioneering Project Ozma, the first SETI experiment, at the Green Bank Radio Observatory in 1960. His Drake Equation serves as a roadmap for astrobiology.

Drake award recipients are nominated by the SETI Institute’s Science Advisory Board and approved by its Board of Trustees. This year’s Drake Awards will be the first one since Drake passed away in 2022, leaving a profound legacy.

Totally unexpected

“This is totally unexpected – but a lot of fun! – to be honored in this way by the SETI Institute,” said Rummel. “I was lucky in that I never had to make a career choice, but instead was able to go where I thought my talents and interests might do the most good, and that has allowed me to work with some amazing people and institutions.

”The SETI Institute has given those people both an institutional home and a goal to understand life in the universe, and I am proud to have contributed to that in my own small way.”

Bill Diamond, CEO of the SETI Institute, said: “John Rummel’s career has covered so many facets of space science and exploration, both manned and unmanned. Very few scientists have had such far-reaching impact on SETI and astrobiology and the critically important, yet poorly understood field of planetary protection.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to honor John’s extraordinary work and his lifelong commitment to the study of life in the Universe.”