Some readers might notice minor changes to the annual feature in which Space News recognizes those whose influence is being felt by the industry. The changes, reflected in the new title, “Making a Difference,” broaden the scope to include not just individuals but also teams and organizations, and remove time and quantity parameters that are confining and create the false impression that this is a ranking.

Opening things up a bit makes it less likely that some people, often by virtue of their position, appear on the list year after year. In that vein, the entire Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) team is recognized here rather than the company’s founder, Elon Musk, who’s been a regular on the list in recent years.

That might be considered cheating, but SpaceX’s impact, especially in the past year, is as undeniable as it is far reaching. By executing the first visit to the international space station by a nongovernment spacecraft, SpaceX lent credibility and won converts to NASA’s controversial plan to outsource crew transport to and from low Earth orbit. Moreover, Musk didn’t do it by himself — SpaceX never would have pulled this off had he not assembled a very capable team.

As in past years, some of those recognized this year are household names in the space industry; others might be characterized as unsung heroes, for lack of a better term.

Finally, as always, the methodology used in recognizing those for making a difference is subjective — there is no hard science to the process.


—Warren Ferster, editor


Stefano Bianchi, Vega Program Manager, European Space Agency

NASA/JPL Mars Curiosity Rover Operations Team

Matt Desch, Chief Executive, Iridium Communications Co.

Cristina Chaplain, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office

Martin Coleman, Executive Director, Satellite Interference Reduction Group

Craig Cooning, Vice President and General Manager, Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems

China National Space Administration

Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Doug Loverro, Executive Director, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

Sally Ride — 1951-2012: First American Woman in Space


Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...