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IPPW 2020

17th International Planetary Probe Workshop 

Monterey Tides Hotel

Monterey, CA, U.S.

Bernie Bienstock Best Presentation Award

Purpose and Background

Starting in 2020, the IPPW International Organizing Committee (IOC) is instituting an award to recognize the workshop best presentation.

The award is named after Bernie Bienstock, in recognition of Bernie’s many years of commitment to IPPW. Bernie served as the chair of the IOC for more than a decade. He mentored numerous students and professional volunteers. His exceptional style of management has encouraged people to grow and ideas to be heard. The result is the workshop to which students and professionals return year after year. His understanding of the IPPW community has ensured the growth of IPPW into a self-sustaining organization.


Starting with IPPW-2020, the IOC is honoring Bernie’s years of IPPW leadership by awarding the Bernie Bienstock Best Presentation Award for the Workshop’s most outstanding presentation. The award will be presented during the closing session on Friday, June 12, 2020.  The selection process is currently being formulated and this web page will be updated once the process is finalized. 

Early in his career while at Hughes Aircraft Company, Bernie Bienstock was fortunate to work on one of NASA’s legendary programs, Pioneer Venus. This mission, NASA’s most ambitious to date, featured an Orbiter and a Multi-probe bus that transported one large and three small probes to Venus to conduct an entry and descent mission to the surface. As it turned out, two of the small probes continued operating on the surface, with one transmitting engineering telemetry for over 2 hours. No small feat for probes that survived a deceleration of over 220 g’s as they slammed into the thick Venus atmosphere!


The Pioneer Venus mission was NASA’s first planetary probe mission to return entry probe science data. Encouraged by having overcome the probe design challenges at Venus, Bernie also applied his engineering knowledge as a systems engineer on the Galileo probe design.

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Bernie Bienstock

Many years later, Bernie learned that a newly formed workshop was scheduling a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal in the fall of 2003. It was the first meeting of a community of engineers and scientists with the title “Planetary Probe Atmospheric Entry and Descent Trajectory Analysis and Science – International Workshop”. He attended the event and after the first day of presentations, convinced the workshop leadership to schedule an impromptu presentation on the second day on the Pioneer Venus and Galileo probes.  He drafted his presentation overnight. and presented the mission and probes design features and later submitted a nine-page paper. His love of probe missions were rekindled.  

Although the Lisbon workshop was planned as a one-time meeting, the attendees eagerly began thinking about another gathering the following year. Enthused by the content of the first meeting, Ethiraj (Raj) Venkatapathy convinced NASA Ames Research Center management to host the second meeting of the group. A new title, IPPW, was put into place, and NASA HQ was persuaded to fund students to attend the workshop. The 2nd International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW-2) was conducted in August of 2004.  With a new-found name and ever-enthusiastic attendees, the annual workshops have continued on a yearly basis. In 2007 during the planning for the 6th IPPW, Bernie was approached by Raj with a request that he chair the IOC. The rest is 11 years of IPPW history. 

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