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NMSU staff honored at NASA awards

Staff members from New Mexico State University's Physical Science Laboratories participating in NASA's Balloon Program received a group achievement award at the 2008 NASA Honor Awards on May 13.

The NMSU PSL has been contracted to support NASA's Balloon Program since 1987. The program flies heavy large aperature telescopes and detectors, as heavy as four tons, to high altitudes, as high as 130,000 feet, for research.

"These are very large systems and are hard to get off the ground," said Danny Ball, site manager of PSL Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Ball said PSL provides NASA with the launch services, telemetry, command systems, and payload recovery.

"We are sort of the bus drivers in that we provide the vehicle for the scientists to do their research," Ball said.

The NMSU staff members received the group achievement award for involvement in the Antarctica Third Flight Mission Support Team.

"Antarctica flights are our most important campaigns because long duration flights are what the astrophysics community needs," Ball said. "We go to Antarctica because we can fly for up to six weeks because the sun doesn't set and the balloons stay in high altitudes."

Ball said that while they usually only have two flights in Antarctica, this past year they had three.

NMSU staff members participating in the Antarctica Third Flight Mission Support Team include Ball, Dwayne Orr, Bill Stepp and Erich Klein.