February 1, 2023

Rubicon’s Director Wins Silver Snoopy for Green Prop Leadership

Rubicon’s Director Wins Silver Snoopy for Green Prop Leadership

On January 26, 2023, Mr. Daniel Cavender was presented NASA Space Flight Awareness Award, the Silver Snoopy. His citation read:

“For exemplary leadership in overcoming immense challenges to develop a new propulsion system for the Lunar Flashlight mission. Lunar Flashlight is one of the first secondary payloads to fly on SLS, and Mr. Cavender’s work has paved the way for safely flying secondary payloads to accomplish significant science missions that will enable future human landings.”

 Prior to joining Rubicon Space Systems, Mr. Cavender was NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Center Deputy Chief Technologist and a Project Manager in NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Branch and has over 15 years’ experience in spacecraft propulsion. He managed the development of low toxicity, chemical propulsion technologies, including the propulsion system for JPL’s Lunar Flashlight spacecraft, and supported NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM). Mr. Cavender chaired the NASA Green Propulsion Working Group and championed the development of low toxicity “Green” propulsion technologies nationwide.

The Ceremony

The Silver Snoopy is always presented by a NASA Astronaut. On this day, Mr. Cavender was pinned by Astronaut Michael “Hopper” Hopkins. Colonel Hopkins was selected in to be an astronaut in 2009 and was the commander of the first operational crewed flight of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, spending 139 days at the ISS. The second presenter was Mr. Larry Leopard, associate director, technical of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Mr. Cavender was joined on stage by his daughter, Ellie, who was almost as excited meeting an astronaut as she was being treated to a cupcake at the reception.  “I’m extremely honored to receive this award and to share this moment with my family and colleagues,” said Mr. Cavender.

The History

The Silver Snoopy best symbolizes the intent and spirit of Space Flight Awareness. An astronautalways presents the Silver Snoopy because it is the astronauts' own award for outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety and mission success. Fewer than 1% of the aerospace program workforce receive it annually, making it a special honor to receive this award. The award is a sterling silver Snoopy lapel pin that has flown in space, plus a certificate of appreciation and commendation letter for the employee, both signed by the astronaut.

After the completion of the Mercury and Gemini projects, NASA wanted a way to promote greater awareness among its employees and contractors of the impact they had on flight safety, the flight crews and their missions. NASA wanted to use a symbol for spaceflight that would be well known and accepted by the public, similar to the recognition received by the United States Forest Service's Smokey Bear.

The idea for the Silver Snoopy award came from Al Chop, who was director of the public affairs office for the Manned Spacecraft Center (now called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center). He wanted to create an award featuring Snoopy as an astronaut to be given by astronauts in recognition of outstanding contributions by employees.

Charles M. Schulz, who was an avid supporter of the U.S. space program, welcomed the idea of using Snoopy for the award. Schulz and United Feature Syndicate (the distributor of the Peanuts comic strip) agreed to let NASA use "Snoopy the Astronaut" at no cost. Schulz himself drew the image the award pin was based on. He also drew promotional art for posters to promote the award program.