USAID and NASA "LAUNCH" Team Honored As Service to America Medal Finalists

For Immediate Release

Thursday, May 5, 2011
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Partnership for Public Service announced that a joint, five person team from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) known as the "LAUNCH Team" has been chosen as a finalist for the 2011 Science and Environment Service to America Medal, also known as the "Sammies."

The Partnership for Public Service received nominations for nearly 400 deserving federal employees this year. The Partnership for Public Service announced 34 finalists at a recognition breakfast for the finalists on Capitol Hill during Public Service Recognition Week, the first week of May. They will announce the nine award recipients on October 5th at an awards gala in Washington, D.C.

The LAUNCH Team is recognized for creating and implementing a unique government and private-sector partnership to identify, support and help take to market innovative technologies and other solutions that address global sustainability problems. USAID staff David Ferguson and Will Schmitt of the Office of Science and Technology are finalists along with their colleagues from NASA on the LAUNCH Team: Diane Powell, Beth Beck, and Robbie Schingler. This is the first time USAID staff have been finalists in the Science and Environment category.

The LAUNCH team has delivered two LAUNCH "cycles" to date focused on water and health, respectively. During each LAUNCH cycle, the team sources and vets a set of ten leading edge innovators that they and outside experts consider to be well positioned for large scale impact on the sustainability issue at hand. The innovators are convened at a three-day LAUNCH Forum at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At the LAUNCH Forum, the innovators receive intensively focused, comprehensive input from the LAUNCH Council, a group of prominent thought leaders and executives from business, government, international development, marketing, finance, design and engineering. During a follow-on "LAUNCH Accelerator" process over four to six months, the innovators receive customized technical assistance, networking, and contacts designed to put their innovations in a better position to go to market and to scale. Previous LAUNCH cycles have focused on water and health, the third LAUNCH cycle will focus on energy. The LAUNCH: Energy Forum will be held at the Kennedy Space Center October 21-23, 2011.

The LAUNCH team has already achieved a number of notable successes and has showcased many remarkable innovations. LAUNCH: Water innovator Mark Tonkin of the company DTI-r developed a novel agricultural irrigation technology that allows the use of brackish water without traditional desalination technology. The technology was highlighted by LAUNCH and subsequently licensed by DuPont, thereby greatly increasing its chances of being used by farmers worldwide. It is currently being used to grow plants in the Jordanian desert by desalinating well water. NASA has also entered into an agreement with the innovator to evaluate the potential use of the technology in space.

The Sammies awards recognize remarkable accomplishments of the federal workforce, highlighting those who have made significant contributions to our country through innovation and dedication to public service. Since the creation of the award in 2002, USAID has been honored with 4 winners:

2005 - Barbara Turner was honored with the Career Achievement Medal for her achievements during her 40-year career at USAID. She worked her way up to the highest levels at USAID, where she played a critical role in the Agency's work in Egypt, the former Soviet Union, Bosnia and other countries.

2006 - Mark Ward, former Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Asia and the Near East bureau, received the International Affairs Medal for his leadership of the U.S. recovery and reconstruction efforts after the Asia Tsunami in 2004 and the South Asia earthquake of 2005.

2008 - Richard Greene, Director, USAID Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition received the Federal Employee of the Year award for the achievement of designing and launching the President's Malaria Initiative, which has provided potentially life-saving services to more than 25 million vulnerable people.

2009 - Amy Meyer, Director, Office of Economic Growth, USAID/Pakistan received the National Security and International Affairs Medal. Meyer led USAID's economic growth program in Pakistan where she surmounted extraordinary challenges while building the program from a $7 million to a $200 million per year effort with only one other staff member.

To learn more about LAUNCH, visit, and to learn more about Science and Technology at USAID, visit

To learn more about USAID and its programs, please visit

Last updated: June 21, 2017

Share This Page