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Inspire Awards

Innovation Begins with Inspiration

By Robert Bell, Executive Director

At the 2021 Space & Satellite Hall of Fame Celebration, SSPI introduced a new awards program: the Inspire Awards. The Inspire Awards honor artists in visual, literary, and performing arts whose work has inspired the people of the space and satellite industry to create the innovations, raise the funds, and overcome the enormous obstacles to lay the foundations for the space economy of the future.

Larry Niven

With its first Inspire Award, SSPI honored Larry Niven, an American science fiction writer whose prodigious output has won every major award in the genre, and whose work has inspired countless readers with a love of science, space and technologies that may transform our world.

His path to the sale of his first story, “The Coldest Place,” in 1964 was not easy. He collected rejection letters for year as he learned his craft, eventually finding that if he told stories to his cousin and his cousin liked them, the stories were probably worth writing.

He first won a Hugo Award for a 1969 story called “Neutron Star,” which Isaac Asimov said he regretted not writing himself. Award-winning stories and novels followed, some written alone and others with his friend Jerry Pournelle and other partners. Over the years, he created dozens of alien races and memorable characters occupying what he called Known Space, a tiny bubble of stars within the galaxy circled by habitable planets. The technologies he imagined ranged from teleportation to fusion drives, autonomous vehicles to holographic theme parks, and to the Ringworld, a habitable band of super-strong material as big across as Earth’s orbit, spinning around its own star.

Larry’s contributions also extended beyond fiction into the real world of space and satellite. With frequent co-author Jerry Pournelle, he wrote a report on America’s military future in space that made its way to the desk of newly elected President Ronald Reagan. The president loved it, and it became the genesis of the Strategic Defense Initiative, better known as “Star Wars.”

His work stands out for putting science at the core of gripping stories and offering remarkable insights into how technology transforms life. Reliable teleportation is invented – and billions of miles of roads and bridges are suddenly useless. Organ transplants of all kinds become routine – and the use of the death penalty skyrockets to supply the public demand for them. Humanity at long last builds a peaceful society – only to meet a fearsome and carnivorous alien race called the Kzin, but are rescued from extermination by the arrival of yet more aliens: merchants willing to sell them faster-than-light technology they would never have invented themselves, because it only works outside the gravity well of a star.

In a long and illustrious career, he has gifted the space and satellite industry with visions that inspire a never-ending reach for the impossible. Or as he puts it, “There is only one universal message in science fiction: there exist minds that think as well as you do – but differently.”

You can read a full profile of Larry Niven on SSPI’s website.

Watch Larry Niven’s acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame Celebration.