The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) has unveiled the four aviation and space achievements that will be competing for the 2021 Robert J. Collier Trophy. Trophy finalists are the DARPA, U.S. Air Force, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, and Northrop Grumman Hypersonic Air Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) Program; the Dynetics and DARPA X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) Program; the NASA/JPL Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team; and the SpaceLogistics and Intelsat Mission Extension Vehicle 2 (MEV-2) Team. According to NAA, the Collier Trophy Selection Committee is scheduled to meet on March 31, 2022, with results to be announced following selection.
“For well over a century, the Collier Trophy has recognized aviation’s greatest achievements,” said NAA President Greg Principato. “Robert Collier hoped this recognition would provide inspiration for even greater progress. The results show the success of his vision. This year’s nominees are all in the great tradition of this most prestigious award for aviation achievement and I congratulate all the finalists.”
Commissioned in 1910, the Robert J. Collier Trophy is presented annually for “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.” As previously reported by AVweb, the 2020 trophy was awarded to Garmin for its Autoland system. Other past winners include Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, Glenn Curtiss, the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7, the B-52, the Voyager Aircraft Team, the Gulfstream G650, the F-22 and the Skylab Program.
All eight projects are laudable achievements, but if the Collier judges factor degree-of-difficulty into the score, the continued success of the Ingenuity team’s little helicopter is the obvious winner. That it worked at all was a massive success; that it survived a year of Martian dust storms and is about to fly its 20th mission on a planet 180 million miles from Earth, THAT is the “greatest achievement of the year”. Maybe the decade.