The Drake Award celebrates exemplary contributions to astrobiology through scientific research and space exploration. The award honors Frank Drake, whose Drake Equation first identified the specific factors necessary for the emergence of life in the Universe and the evolution of technological civilizations. This honor is given at the discretion of the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute, based on nominations from its Science Advisory Board. The honoree is presented a cash award and trophy, and is invited to describe their research at a public ceremony.
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Frank Drake is the former Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, and previously served as Chairman of SETI Institute's Board of Trustees.
Drake started his career undertaking radio astronomical research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, and later the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He conducted key measurements which revealed the presence of a Jovian ionosphere and magnetosphere.
In the 1960s, Drake spearheaded the conversion of the Arecibo Observatory to a radio astronomical facility, later updated in 1974 and 1996. As a researcher, Drake was involved in the early work on pulsars. In this period, Drake was a professor at Cornell University and Director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) – the formal name for the Arecibo facility. In 1974 he wrote the Arecibo message.
He is one of the pioneers of the modern field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with Giuseppe Cocconi, Philip Morrison, Iosif Shklovsky, and Carl Sagan.
Drake co-designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl Sagan in 1972, the first physical message sent into space. The plaque was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter it. He later supervised the creation of the Voyager Golden Record. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974.
Drake is a member of the National Academy of Sciences where he chaired the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Research Council (1989–92). He also served as President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He was a Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University (1964–84) and served as the Director of the Arecibo Observatory.
He is Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he also served as Dean of Natural Sciences (1984–88). He is also an Emeritus Trustee and serves on the Science Advisory Board for the SETI Institute.
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