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29 January 2021 Statement

The award was presented in Sydney by the Committee of Space Research (COSPAR) and includes having a minor planet named in his honour – in this case, the minor planet 8479, that will now be known as Held. Discovered in 1987, the planet is 5km in diameter and is situated in the Main Asteroid Belt.

Acting CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Sarah Pearce congratulated Dr Held on the international recognition and his 30-year contribution to CSIRO.

"Dr Held is one of Australia’s leading Earth Observation experts, and I’ve been fortunate to work with him over the last two years while he’s led the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation," Dr Pearce said.

"His work has harnessed satellite imagery to solve real challenges here on Earth, like the Sentinel Hotspots program to spot bushfires when they start, and establishing CSIRO's share of the NovaSAR-1 satellite, soon to be available as a national research facility, providing Australian scientists with access to sophisticated new satellite radar capability.

"He is now at the forefront of developing one of CSIRO's new missions, AquaWatch Australia, which will aim to establish an integrated ground-to-space national water quality monitoring system and support growth across Australia’s high-tech space sector."

Dr Held thanked his peers and colleagues for nominating him for the award and their support through his career.

"I feel honoured to receive the COSPAR Harrie Massey Award, and thank the Australian Academy of Science for its nomination," Dr Held said.

"It has been a privilege to support great science and represent Australia and my own organisation, CSIRO, at regional and global space forums, and be part of this global community."

Dr Held has also been instrumental in developing OpenDataCube, a high-performance open source data management system which now has over 50 DataCube implementations globally with partners including NASA.

His work to improve international collaboration and democratise accessibility to satellite data has led to better understanding, monitoring and management of our natural environment.

More on Dr Alex Held

More on the COSPAR 2020 Awards

More on the award Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) » Massey Award (


Dr Alex Held, Director of the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation. ©  COPYRIGHT KARL SCHWERDTFEGER

Background information

The COSPAR Massey Award honors the memory of Sir Harrie Massey, FRS, past Physical Secretary of the Royal Society and past member of the COSPAR Bureau.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the development of space research, interpreted in the widest sense, in which a leadership role is of particular importance.

The award is open to candidates from any country.

From 2018 the IAU has named a minor planet for each COSPAR award recipient.

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