Three NASA Marshall Center executives honored with Presidential Rank Awards

May 21, 2004

Three executives from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have been honored with 2003 Presidential Rank Awards - one of the highest recognitions for government service work. They were among a group of federal senior executives recently honored in Washington.

Dr. Martin Weisskopf, project scientist for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at the Marshall Center, received a Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Senior Executives. Robert L. Sackheim, assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion, and Stephen Beale, director of procurement, each were honored with the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives for service at the Marshall Center.

The Presidential Rank Award is a prestigious honor given to a select group of senior federal executives who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time. Executives who have demonstrated strength, integrity, industry and commitment to the public trust are nominated for the award by the head of their agency. A panel of private citizens evaluates the candidates, selecting only those who, through their personal conduct and results-oriented leadership, qualify for referral to the President who makes the final designation.

Weisskopf has dedicated more than 25 years of his career to Chandra, the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. Since its launch in 1999, the Chandra observatory has helped scientists better understand the structure and evolution of the universe, generating the most sensitive or "deepest" X-ray exposure ever made, shedding new insight on planets including Mars and Jupiter, finding an X-ray ring around the Crab Nebula, and making numerous discoveries involving supermassive black holes. Weisskopf, who started with NASA in 1977, also serves as chief scientist for X-ray Astronomy in the Space Sciences Department at the Marshall Center. The Chicago native earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and his doctorate in physics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

Sackheim has served as assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion at the Marshall Center since joining NASA in 1999. In his position, he supervises all NASA space propulsion research and development activities - from Space Shuttle propulsion elements and conventional rockets, to innovative kerosene and liquid oxygen engines intended to launch next-generation spacecraft to orbit, to alternative propulsion technologies meant to carry them deep into the Solar System and beyond. Born in New York City, Sackheim earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and his master's degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University in New York. He has completed his doctoral coursework in chemical engineering at the University of California in Los Angeles, where for nine years he taught a professional-level engineering course on spacecraft design and propulsion.

Beale started his career with Marshall in 1972 and has led the Center's Procurement Office since 1997, overseeing all stages of Marshall's contracting process, including solicitation, evaluation, negotiations, awarding and contract management, both at Marshall and at associated contractor plants. He manages all procurement activities and supervises over 900 active contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements currently valued at over $31 billion. As procurement director, Beale manages 130 civil service and 40 contract employees. A native of Birmingham, Ala., he earned his bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and his master's degree in business administration from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville. He has completed the program for Senior Executive Fellows at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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