Resnik Challenger Medal

Alice Bowman

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

For visionary technical contributions to deep space and Earth-orbiting spacecraft; and for developing cost-saving, hardware-life-extending strategies that are making ever bolder missions possible.

Alice Bowman is a principal professional staff member and supervisor of the Space Mission Operations Group at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. She is a world-renowned technical expert in spacecraft mission operations.

Bowman’s love of space exploration began in childhood, when she watched and saved newspaper clippings of the first moon landing. By 1984, Bowman had joined Aerojet Electrosystems, where she developed silicon-based semiconductors that detected infrared waves emitted by cruise missiles and stars. As a project engineer, she used these detectors to build pre-amplifier assemblies used in experiments onboard NASA’s space shuttle. She went on to become a technical advisor to U.S. Space Command on interpreting infrared-signature detections.

After joining APL in 1997, Bowman contributed to various spacecraft mission operations teams, including the Midcourse Space Experiment, CONTOUR, and New Horizons. As supervisor of APL’s Space Mission Operations Group, she leads some 50 staff members who operate deep-space and Earth-orbiting spacecraft, making key observations for NASA’s Planetary Science and Heliophysics divisions.

Bowman has served as the mission operations manager for NASA’s New Horizons mission since its inception in 2001. In this role, she planned the mission concepts for the historic flybys of Pluto and its family of moons on July 14, 2015, and the Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth on Jan. 1, 2019. Bowman developed the beacon-hibernation operations concept that decreased costs and extended spacecraft hardware life. In part because of her contributions, New Horizons is recognized as a model for future deep-space exploration missions.

Internationally recognized in the space industry, Bowman has given more than 200 invited talks and interviews since 2015 and has served on the international space operations committee since 2009. In 2018, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics named her an associate fellow for her outstanding engineering contributions to the field of astronautics. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Space Studies Board selected Bowman as the mission operations expert on a 12-member committee to assess the scientific value of extended missions in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate; and Foreign Policy magazine recognized Bowman as one of 2015’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers for “revealing the edges of the solar system.” In 2018, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 146040 “Alicebowman.”

Bowman earned a B.A. in physics and chemistry at the University of Virginia. In her free time, she and her husband play in a bluegrass band.