A veteran aerospace journalist and the director of external relations at Kennedy Space Center today won prestigious news and communications awards named for the former managing editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine.
During a National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon in Cape Canaveral, the 2011 Harry Kolcum News and Communications Awards went to Jim Banke and Cheryl Hurst. Banke and Hurst joined the likes of the late, longtime Associated Press Aerospace Writer Howard Benedict and Jack King, NASA's Voice of Apollo, in winning the awards.
The awards are presented annually to the news and public affairs professionals who excel in communicating the story of space exploration within the state of Florida and throughout the world.
Banke, a former FLORIDA TODAY reporter, is an award-winning journalist, writer, producer, consultant, analyst and project manager who has covered the nation's space program for more than a quarter century. In 2006, he served on the Governor's Commission on the Future of Aeronautics and Space in Florida. The group's recommendations led to the creation of Space Florida, a state economic development organization. Banke was honored by NASA with a Distinguished Public Service Medal the following year.
A Minnesota native, Banke now is the owner and president of MILA Solutions, LLC., which provides strategic communications, media projects and project management services to the aerospace industry.
For more than 15 years, Banke has provided live commentary for all Cape Canaveral launches for WMMB-AM Radio. He has produced and hosted the weekly radio show "Space Talk" on WMMB since 2009. He also serves as Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum Foundation.
Hurst is director of education and external relations at KSC. In this position she provides guidance and direction to KSC's strategic communications team, government relations representatives, public outreach programs, guest operations, protocol and education programs. She communicates NASA's messages to internal and external audiences, including senior management, business and community leaders, legislators, dignitaries, academic institutions, KSC guests and the general public. Hurst also manages the KSC Visitor Complex concession agreement and has oversight of the KSC History Program and Speaker's Bureau.
Hurst specializes in promoting public awareness of the importance and excitement of the nation's space program and has played key roles in connecting NASA with national media. She fostered partnerships with ABC-TV's Extreme Makeover, Discovery's Cake Boss, Carnival Cruise Lines, Bill Nye The Science Guy and the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
In the months leading up to the retirement of NASA's shuttle fleet, she oversaw efforts to allow workers to bring their families to see key milestone such as shuttle rollouts to the launch pad. She was instrumental in championing a celebration of the 30-year shuttle program with new and unique opportunities for workers and the public. More recently, Hurst has spearheaded an expansion of events surrounding expendable rocket launches, increasing opportunities for NASA guests and visitors at the launches of NASA space science and planetary exploration missions.