In the early 1980s Mike was instrumental in founding the Mount Wilson Observatory Association (MWOA), a support organization dedicated to improving the experience of visitors to the renowned observatory. He served as the founding President of MWOA and was on the Board of Trustees for some 20 years.
Mike's outreach efforts in astronomy broadened in 1999 when he traveled to Iran for a total solar eclipse. In Iran he found an enthusiastic astronomy community lacking the resources easily found in the West. He has since traveled to Iran several times, and in 2004 he led a group of Westerners to Iran to observe the rare Transit of Venus alongside hundreds of Iranian amateur astronomers. In 2006 Mike traveled to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, bringing observing equipment donated by American astronomers to their enthusiastic but isolated Kurdish counterparts. He has also assisted amateur astronomers and educators in many countries via the Internet. Seeing astronomy as a universal interest that transcends cultural differences, Mike founded Astronomers Without Borders in 2006. He now serves as President of this effort to unite astronomy and space enthusiasts around the world through those common interests.
Mike is also a writer and photographer who has contributed to publications including Scientific American, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope where he is a Contributing Editor. He regularly gives presentations, both in the US and abroad, on his experiences and interests, and on his outlook on international relations through astronomy.
During the UN-declared International Year of Astronomy 2009 Mike led the effort to organize the Cornerstone Project "100 Hours of Astronomy" in more than 100 countries, the largest outreach effort of the year.
Awards and Recognition
Minor Planet Simmons (22294) was named in his honor in 2003, in part for his "varied outreach activities in astronomy." In 2005 Mike was presented with the Clifford W. Holmes Award, an honor given annually by RTMC for a "Major Contribution to Popularizing Astronomy." In 2009 Mike received the prestigious G. Bruce Blair Award given annually by the Western Amateur Astronomers for "outstanding contributions to amateur astronomy." Mike was also awarded the prestigious 2014 Gabrielle and Camille Flammarion Prize from the Société Astronomique de France (SAF) for “setting a worldwide example that astronomy does transcend political and cultural borders.”