Academy Fellow among Australian space researchers honoured at COSPAR 2021

January 30, 2021
From left: Dr Ken McCracken, Dr Alex Held, and Dr Daniel Graham. Image adapted from photos by CSIRO and Yuri Khotyaintsev, IRF

Three Australian researchers, including a Fellow of the Academy, have received international recognition for their contributions to astronomy and space science at the awards ceremony of the 43rd Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Scientific Assembly.


Dr Ken McCracken AO FAA FTSE received the COSPAR Space Science Award for “outstanding contributions to space science”. Dr McCracken, elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1987, has been a leading light in space science for over 60 years, working across cosmic ray and heliospheric research, X-ray astronomy, interplanetary archeology and mineral exploration.

His contributions include developing instruments to measure flow characteristics of the solar cosmic radiation (which was central to the formulation of radiation protection procedures in manned space flight) and innovations in time domain electromagnetic methods for exploration geophysics. He currently studies cosmic ray traces in polar ice cores to help interpret the history of the sun’s magnetic field over the past 150,000 years.

As part of the award, Minor Planet (8258) McCracken has been named in his honour.


Dr Alex Held, Director of CSIRO’s Centre For Earth Observation, received the COSPAR Harrie Massey Award for “outstanding contributions to the development of space research in which a leadership role is of particular importance.”

Dr Held is the first winner of this award from the southern hemisphere. Among his other distinguished work in steering national and international science policy, Dr Held led the award-winning delivery of the Sentinel Hotspots program (2002–2006), which is still used to support bushfire response activities in Australia. He is currently overseeing the establishment of the new radar satellite NovaSAR-1 as a national research facility.

Minor Planet (8479) Held has been named in his honour.


Dr Daniel Graham, an Australian researcher at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF), received the Yakov B. Zeldovich Medal, a joint award of COSPAR and the Russian Academy of Sciences, from COSPAR Scientific Commission D. This award is conferred on young scientists for excellence and achievements, and one medal is awarded from each of the COSPAR Scientific Commissions.

After completing his PhD at the University of Sydney in 2012, Dr Graham has worked with IRF in Uppsala looking at the magnetosphere, where earth’s magnetic field meets the solar wind. Recently, he has begun working with the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.

COSPAR hosts a Scientific Assembly every two years, gathering almost three thousand participating space researchers.

COSPAR’s objectives are to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research.

The full citations of all the winners can be found on the COSPAR website.

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science