UPR’s long-time go-to outer space and star guy Patrick Wiggins is being awarded NASA’s highest civilian honor. Wiggins is Utah’s Solar System Ambassador for NASA and his mission is to get the public outside and looking at the stars.
UPR spoke with Wiggins the day after he learned he’d be the first ambassador to receive the Distinguished Public Medal and, by his own account, he was still in shock.
“I’m totally dumbfounded," Wiggins said. "I got a phone call yesterday out of the blue that I am being summoned to NASA headquarters in the middle of next month and I am going to be on some stage with Charles Bolden, the director of NASA. I’m receiving the NASA Distinguished Public Service Award. It’s a metal, actually, that they’re going to put around my neck like some Olympian or something and it’s actually, much to my humble surprise, the highest award that NASA awards to anybody that doesn’t work for NASA.”
After working at the now-closed Hansen Planetarium for over a quarter century, Wiggins retired and began volunteering with NASA in 2001.
“I signed up with this program called the Solar System Ambassadors, and I’ve been doing that ever since," said Wiggins. "I’ve got over 1,000 interviews and events, as they call them, and…I just found out that’s more than virtually all the other hundreds of ambassadors put together.”
Wiggins said he’s in awe to be included with other medal recipients such as Carl Sagan.
“In case you can’t tell, I’m a wee bit excited!”
Wiggins said he’ll receive his award on August 14th. His only concern, he said, is how he’ll get the medal back through airport security.