South African space expert, Prof Peter Martinez becomes the first African to win the Frank J. Malina Astronautics Medal. The medal is in honour of the late American aeronautical engineer and painter, primarily known for becoming both a pioneer in the art world and the realm of scientific engineering. Frank J. Malina also was an active volunteer of the International Astronautical Federation. He was a long-serving SEOC member and SEOC Chair.
According to the International Aeronautics Federation website, the medal has since 1986, been presented to an educator who has demonstrated excellence in taking fullest advantage of the resources available to them to promote the study of astronautics and related space sciences. Any IAF member organisations in good standing may nominate candidates for the Medal.
Since its inception, however, no African has been a recipient, with the latest recipients being prof Mengo Chu in 2019, and Prof David Spencer in 2018.
Prof Martinez, the 2020 winner, is the Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation. He has extensive experience in multilateral space diplomacy, space policy formulation and space regulation. He also has extensive experience in capacity building in space science and technology and workforce development. Prior to joining SWF, from 2011 – 2018 he chaired the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) Working Group on the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities that negotiated a set of international consensus guidelines to promote the safety and sustainability of space operations. In 2012 and 2013 he was South Africa’s representative on the United Nations Group of Government Experts on transparency and confidence-building measures for space activities. From 2010 – 2015 he was the Chairman of the South African Council for Space Affairs, the national regulatory authority for space activities in South Africa. He has presented guest lectures at several universities around the world. From 2014 – 2018 he was Professor of Space Studies at the University of Cape Town. He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, the International Institute of Space Law and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical. He has authored or co-authored over 200 publications on topics in space policy, space sustainability, astronomy, space research, space law and space policy.
His recognition is a milestone for the African space sector and will serve as a pointer for many space enthusiasts.