Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence

UCF alumnus Larry Bradley poses with the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation honors Larry Bradley ’94 for his contributions to space exploration 

Larry Bradley once discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe (at the time). Now he will be recognized by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation at the Innovators Gala in Washington D.C. on Aug. 25.

Bradley has been selected as the recipient of this year’s Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence. The annual honor recognizes an Astronaut Scholar alum who has made a difference through his or her work and also embodies character, achievement and impact.

When the first launch of the space shuttle occurred on April 12, 1981, Larry Bradley ’94 and his family drove from their home in Orlando to camp roadside in Cape Canaveral and watch the historical moment. Among the spectators, a man had set up a large telescope and invited those around to peer into the skies.

“I remember seeing the rings of Saturn for the first time and Jupiter and its moons and a very detailed view of moon craters. I had seen those things in books but I didn’t know I could actually see the rings of Saturn with my own eyes,” Bradley says. “As a young kid, that somehow ignited a spark in me.”

Bradley, a Burnett Honors Scholar, who studied physics and mathematics at UCF, is now an astrophysicist and senior systems software engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.

In 2008, he used the Hubble Space Telescope to locate the most distant galaxy in the universe, dating back to within the first billion years. Although that discovery has since been superseded, he says the James Webb Space Telescope will provide the opportunity for even more detailed exploration when it launches in 2021.

While his discovery was one of the highlights of his career, he also points to this award as another meaningful moment.

“Neil Armstrong has always been a hero of mine so to receive an award named after him is just a huge, huge honor, and I am extremely humbled to win such a prestigious award,” Bradley says.

Bradley serves on the foundation’s board of directors and its scholarship committee. For the first time this year, he will act as a mentor and was coincidentally assigned to Maasarani.

“The astronaut scholarship is a lifelong support to its scholars,” he says. “It’s like joining a family.”


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