Skip to content

NMSU astronomy professor receives second NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal

Release Date: 09 Jan 2020
NMSU astronomy professor receives second NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal

New Mexico State University astronomy professor emerita Reta Beebe was recently honored by NASA for the second time. The 2019 award is for her service as the Planetary Data System liaison to the Cassini Project. Beebe received NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal for her work in coordinating archiving of the Cassini data set to optimize access for current and future users.

“This was unexpected,” Beebe said. “Working with the Cassini team was rewarding and their commitment to producing the most complete archive possible lead to highly effective interactions with the team. Without the outstanding support of the Cassini management team, Linda Spilker – Project Scientist, Earl Maise – Project Manager and Kathern Weld – Business Manager, who nominated me for this recognition, I could not have coordinated this.”

NASA’s Planetary Data System is divided into discipline nodes. The Atmospheres Node is housed at the NMSU Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Atmospheres Node has the responsibility of archiving and making available worldwide all of the atmosphere-focused data returned by spacecraft exploring planets and moons in the solar system.

The Cassini–Huygens space-research mission, commonly called Cassini, was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit. Once its mission was over, the probe was deliberately crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017.

After Cassini’s prime mission was completed in 2008, the complexity of the returned data made it very challenging for scientists to extract the data from the Planetary Data System. A unique approach to simplify the process was to develop an overlay that provided access via each of the five Cassini science disciplines ((Rings, Titan, Satellites, Saturn, and Magnetosphere).

Beebe efforts ensured that all Cassini data was properly stored on the Planetary Data System and used her experience to make the data accessible to scientists.

“The Cassini Project and NASA owe Dr. Beebe a huge debt of gratitude for her ideas and support to enable the future for Cassini science research by planetary scientists, especially the next generation,” said Jon Holtzman, NMSU astronomy professor and department head.

Beebe first received NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal back in 2010 for her extensive service to the community, working on advanced planning and program reviews for NASA and the National Academy of Sciences.

In order to receive this award, the individual must have made a significant improvement to NASA’s image, have record of achievements that sets benchmark for other non-government contributors to follow, have made substantial improvements to a NASA program that yielded high quality results, and have made a lasting impact on the success of the agency.

adding all to cart
File added to media cart.