Alan Stern


S. Alan Stern Planetary Science and Astrophysics
B.S. Physics, University of Texas, Austin
B.S. Physics, University of Texas, Austin
M.E. Aerospace, University of Texas, Austin
M.S. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Texas, Austin
Ph.D., Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado


Alan Stern is a planetary scientist and associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). He is also the principal investigator, leading NASA’s New Horizons mission to the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons mission received wide attention in July 2015 with the Pluto flyby and its inaugural 2019 exploration of the first primordial Kuiper Belt Object.

During his career, Stern has participated on the mission teams of 29 NASA science missions, having been a principal investigator on 14 of them. In 1994, he founded SwRI’s Colorado operations and directed the office until in 2007 and 2008, when he led NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., overseeing 93 flight missions and more than 3,000 grants. Since leaving NASA he has served as the board chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the chief scientist of space companies Moon Express and World View Enterprises.

Stern has been honored numerous times over the course of his career. In 2007 and again in 2016, TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the year. The American Astronautical Society awarded him its Carl Sagan Memorial Award in 2016, and he received the 2016 NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the space agency’s highest civilian honor. NASA’s New Horizons mission, led by Stern, was named among the top science news stories of 2015 by Discover Magazine and Science News, among other distinctions, and the mission itself been honored with numerous other awards.

Stern is a fellow of the AAAS, the Royal Astronomical Society, and is a member of the AIAA, AAS, IAF, and the AGU; he was elected chair of the Division of Planetary Sciences in 2006. He has been awarded the Von Braun Aerospace Achievement Award of the National Space Society, the 2007 University of Colorado George Norlin Distinguished Alumnus Award, the 2009 St. Mark’s Preparatory School Distinguished Alumnus Award, Smithsonian Magazine’s 2015 American Ingenuity Award, and the 2016 Sagan Memorial Award of the American Astronautical Society.

Stern is a member of the National Science Board’s class of 2018-2024.