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NMSU’s Physical Science Lab deputy director receives top NASA award

A New Mexico State University staff member was recognized for the exemplary work he did over the past two decades in support of NASA’s high-altitude balloon program.


A man standing by high-altitude balloons
New Mexico State University Physical Science Lab interim Deputy Director Henry Cathey has been awarded a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal by the agency for his work in support of NASA’s balloon project. (Courtesy photo)

Henry Cathey, now interim deputy director of NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory, received a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal.

“Henry has received an honor that he truly deserves,” said NMSU Vice President for Research Vimal Chaitanya. “This just goes to show the quality of NMSU’s staff and faculty researchers I have the honor to work with. Our contribution to the scientific mission of NASA for more than the last three decades is very significant and this award not only exemplifies Henry’s work, but PSL and NMSU as well.”

The medal was presented to Cathey at an annual award ceremony in July at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“It is humbling to receive this recognition,” Cathey said. “I became an engineer because I like to solve problems. I have been blessed with a number of unique technical challenges over the past 20 years and the opportunity to do some things that nobody has done before. I have enjoyed my work and it’s an honor to be recognized.”

This prestigious NASA medal, approved by the NASA Administrator, is awarded to any non-government individual for exceptional contributions to NASA’s missions. The award citation states, “For exceptional service, exemplary performance, and technical expertise in supporting NASA’s Balloon Program.” This medal is a recognition of sustained performance that embodies multiple contributions on NASA projects, programs and initiatives.

Cathey has worked for PSL for the past 20 years at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. He recently moved to Las Cruces and was named the interim deputy director of PSL. He continues to support NASA’s ballooning activities and a number of other PSL activities including new business development.

He has his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in design from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in mechanical engineering with a concentration in space systems from the George Washington University.

NASA’s most prestigious awards are presented to carefully selected individuals who have distinguished themselves by making outstanding contributions to the agency’s mission. The Exceptional Public Service Medal is awarded for sustained performance that includes multiple contributions to the agency’s mission. The honoree’s achievements must set a benchmark for others to follow and represent a substantial improvement to a NASA program that yields high quality results or improvements and makes a lasting impact on the success of the agency.