William Harwood

Space Communicator Award: William Harwood
[Dyson, Marianne, 1998 RNASA Program Book, March 6, 1998]

The RNASA Foundation is pleased to present the 1998 Space Communicator Award to William Harwood. This award is given to a professional communicator who has made an important contribution to the public's understanding of and appreciation for the accomplishments of the American space program.

Whether it is a robotic expedition on the surface of Mars, a rendezvous in low earth orbit, the development of technology that further defines the envelope of space exploration, or apolitical debate over our nation's priorities in space, Harwood's reporting is on the scene, on time, anon the mark.

He has covered the space shuttle program since 1984 for United Press International, CBS News, CBS Radio, Space News and The Washington Post. A veteran of 83 shuttle flights, Harwood has covered some of the most important space stories of the past 15 years, including the Challenger accident, the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, launch and repair of the Hubble Space Telescope and more recently, the Mars Pathfinder, Global Surveyor and Cassini missions to Mars and Saturn. Harwood's responsibilities also include the Russian space program, and he was the first to report the collision of the Mir with a Progress resupply vehicle last year.

Harwood was born in Williamsburg, VA, but considers Nashville, Tenn., his hometown. "I've been interested in space flight and astronomy since grammar school when I got my first telescope, a 4.5-inch Newtonian reflector I had no idea how to operate!" he told the Foundation.

He got his first taste of the space program covering two shuttle missions while writing for and eventually editing the University of Tennessee school newspaper. "I followed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs throughout high school and college and of course, the shuttle program when flights began in 1981. I've always considered myself incredible lucky to have witnessed humanity's initial forays into space." After majoring in physics and completing upper division work in geology and mathematics, he earned a degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee in 1982.

Harwood began his professional career as a reporter with UPI in Columbia, SC, where he covered everything from state politics and crime to nuclear issues at the nearby Savannah River Plant. In 1984, after attending two shuttle launches with UPI and expressing a strong interest in the space program, Harwood was named Cape Canaveral bureau manager, moving to Florida and switching to full-time space coverage with STS-41B. He told the Foundation, "Covering space is simply tremendous fun. It's never boring, you get to meet very, very smart people and besides, I don't have to wear a tie to work."

In 1991, Harwood became a space consultant to CBS News, providing on-air commentary and analysis, while continuing to work for UPI on a part-time basis. He ultimately went to work full time for CBS, helping plan the network's coverage of space events and providing on-air analysis during launch, landing and other major mission events. Throughout a special arrangement with CBS, Harwood serves as a correspondent for Space News and covers shuttle missions for The Washington Post. A dedicated amateur astronomer, he also writers for Ciel et Espace, a French astronomy magazine, as well as Astronomy Now in Great Britain. The current issues of both magazines feature stories by Harwood on Galileo's extended mission to explore the Jovian moons Europa and Io.

In addition to his writing and broadcasting work, Harwood maintains an extensive space-related web site on the Internet for CBS News (http://uttm.com/space) [2010: http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/home/index.html] that serves as a valuable reference for the public and other space reporters.

Harwood's other interests include physics, computers and jazz (he plays marimba and vibes). He is married to the former Catherine Smith, who worked as a space reporter at KPRC-TV in Houston in the later 1980s. They currently live in Cocoa Beach, Florida, with their one-year-old son, Houston.

Harwood said. "It's a real honor for me to earn recognition from the RNASA [Foundation] because the men and women who select these honorees are the same men and women who make the space program happen. I've either impressed them or fooled them completely." Either way, he said that is quite an accomplishment. The members of the Foundation salute William Harwood as a leader among his peers who is richly deserving of the Space Communicator Award. We look forward to more of his excellent reporting.

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