Dr. Marc Rayman '74 continues to enjoy his thrilling experiences as a top rocket scientist at NASA's JPL facility in Pasadena, Calif. He is still driven by passions that were already burning bright within him when he started at MV in the third grade. Marc's latest mission, Dawn, is the only spacecraft in history to orbit two destinations beyond Earth. Under his guidance, Dawn has conducted exceptionally successful explorations of dwarf planet Ceres (the first dwarf planet, which was discovered 129 years before its better-known sibling, Pluto) and protoplanet Vesta. Prior to Dawn, they were the largest uncharted alien worlds in the inner solar system, and Dawn has revealed them in rich detail. A key to exploring them was ion propulsion, which Marc first heard of in a Star Trek episode. He was instrumental in turning that science fiction into science fact. Dawn has now surpassed all of its original objectives after an interplanetary journey of more than nine years. (This mission has lasted almost as long as Marc was a student at Maumee Valley Country Day School, but living in Toledo and Sylvania, he didn't have to travel the 3.8 billion miles that his spacecraft has.)
In 2016, Marc received the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the nation's greatest achievement in space or aviation. The ceremony in Washington was attended by some members of Congress, leaders of NASA, and many luminaries in space and aviation. The guest of honor, the Collier Trophy itself, doesn't get out much. It resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and leaves (under impressively strict guard) only one day a year for the ceremony. It was an imposing presence too, nearly eight feet tall and weighing 525 pounds. Previous recipients of the trophy, which was first awarded in 1911, include Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, Chuck Yeager, the crew of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the Voyager mission team.
Later in 2016, NASA presented Marc with a medal for his "outstanding leadership" of this extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition.
He was back in Washington in March to receive the Astronautics Engineer of the Year Award.
As a lifelong space enthusiast, Marc is having a great time pretending to be an adult as he gets to do what he had always dreamed of!