Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Amara L. Graps has been awarded the 2018 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science for her far-reaching work to inspire and promote space activities in the Baltic region within the scientific and industrial communities, in education and in wider society.

The prize recognizes and honors outstanding communication to the general public in planetary science by an individual or an institution. It is to be awarded to individuals or groups who have developed innovative practices in planetary science communication, and whose efforts are contributing significantly to a wider public engagement with, and enthusiasm for, planetary science.

Graps, based in Riga, Latvia, was recognized for her efforts to bridge gaps that exist that prevent the general public from understanding, and embracing, developments in planetary science. She is the founder of the not-for-profit organisation, Baltics in Space. Graps’ work with Baltics in Space supported the successful European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017, sponsored by PSI, which took place in Riga Sept. 17-22, 2017. The event made a significant contribution to raising the profile of space in Latvia and the Baltics with audiences ranging from members of Parliament and Ministries, business, the media, educators and schools.

By compiling a catalogue of the skills and space capabilities in the region, as well as organising a showcase exhibit at EPSC, Baltics in Space facilitated opportunities for researchers and industry based in the Baltics to build new and competitive space collaborations with each other and with the international space community. An exhibition on the Solar System was visited by 600 local schoolchildren during EPSC and has since been visited by 10,000 children at the Zinoo Science Centre in Cesis.

“The aim is to create a community where Baltic space workers can collaborate to complement each other’s skill sets,” Graps said. “We have the capabilities to achieve unique projects when we work together.”

“Amara’s dedication to bringing our science to the public and children in particular is inspiring, and it is also critical to our future success as a profession since it is their support that allows us to continue,” said Mark V. Sykes, Director and CEO at the Planetary Science Institute. “I deeply appreciate Amara’s commitment to increasing connections between planetary science in the Baltics, the rest of Europe and the United States. Her initiatives create new opportunities to the benefit of all.”

“Amara is the rare scientist who realizes, naturally, intuitively, that she is not extending the boundaries of human knowledge for herself, but for everyone, and she can’t wait to share that knowledge with those around her, young or old, near or far,” said J.L. Galache, Chief Technology Officer of Aten Engineering, who nominated Dr Graps for the Europlanet Prize. “At every stage of her career, Amara has found a way to communicate her work and her field to a wider audience. From websites to whitepapers, from teaching in a classroom to teaching through citizen science; Amara has used whatever means she had at her disposal to share her enthusiasm and passion for planetary science and learning to a broad community of colleagues, lay people and children.”

The Europlanet Prize, which includes an award of 4,000 Euros, will be presented during the European Planetary Science Congress 2018 in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 17, 2018.