Stephen E. Dwornik

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Stephen E. Dwornik
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Born(1926-07-03)July 3, 1926
DiedDecember 17, 2012(2012-12-17) (aged 86)
CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationPlanetary Geologist
  • Stephen Dwornik (father)
  • Helena Januszkiewicz (mother)

Stephen Eugene Dwornik (July 3, 1926-December 17, 2012) was a planetary geologist who is recognized for his contributions to planetary geology and as a Project Manager for the Surveyor program at NASA.

Early life

Stephen Dwornik was born to parents Stephen Dwornik and Helena Januszkiewicz Sołtys in Buffalo, NY on July 3, 1926. As a young boy, he worked with his mother at the neighborhood bar they owned, helped his father at their tool and die business, and attended Buffalo's prestigious Technical High School. He joined the Army at the age of 17, and walked across Europe in World War II carrying an automatic weapon as a combat infantryman. Stephen fought on the front lines in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge as part of the 102nd Division, receiving the Army's Bronze Star.

After his Army service, Stephen used the G.I. Bill earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Geology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.


After college, Stephen took a job with the Usgsin Alaska for two years, after which he joined the Army Corp of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Virginia working in landmine detection. His work in landmine detection included testing and evaluating the DMZ in Korea.

In 1965 Stephen transferred to NASA to become a program scientist on early lunar robotic missions like Surveyor program and Lunar Orbiter program. Soon after, he was reassigned to help manage the a new program funding planetary geologic research called the Planetology program[1] (lunar science was addressed in a different program). The purpose of the NASA Planetology Program[2] was to foster research to support the upcoming planetary missions and to provide a deeper understanding of the planets that would be the foundation for mission development. At the time when Stephen was starting the Planetology Program, planetary geology was a very new field. NASA made it clear that if there was no interest in the scientific community for working on planetary geologic problems, that funding would be directed elsewhere. Stephen went on to build a strong program by recruiting principle investigators to build up the field. Part of his legacy at NASA includes the Regional Planetary Image Facilities[3] and the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate Research Program (now NASA's Summer Undergraduate Program for Planetary Research[4]). Stephen retired from NASA in 1979.

After retiring from NASA in 1979, Stephen went on to work in the private sector for another 15 years establishing a consulting company, becoming the Washington Representative for Ball Aerospace & Technologies, consulting on landmine detection for the Army and donating considerable time to the NASA Geoscience Education and Outreach efforts.

The Dwornik Award

The Dwornik[5] Award was endowed and established in 1991 to encourage U.S. students to become involved with NASA and planetary science. Initially the awards were presented to the best student oral presentation at the annual Geological Society of America meeting and the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. In 1992, the award was given only at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference for the best oral presentation as well as adding honorable mention citations. In 1993, the award was again expanded to include student poster presentations. The success of the Dwornik Award continued to draw students to the field, and in 2009, the award expanded its awards to include separate categories for Best Graduate and Best Undergraduate oral and poster presentations. Today, the Dwornik Award is one of the preeminent awards for graduate and undergraduate students in planetary science.


  1. "Where No Man Has Gone Before, Ch2-2". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  2. "NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  3. "Regional Planetary Image Facility Locations". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  4. "PGGURP Home". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  5. "Dwornik Award – Planetary Geology Division". Retrieved 2020-11-25.

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