Stuart McClung, Orion Crew Module Landing and Recovery System Functional Area Manager
This profile continues a series to introduce the people behind the development of Orion in advance of the spacecraft’s move from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for outfitting before its first space-bound test, planned for 2014. Exploration Flight Test-1 is an essential step that will allow engineers to acquire critical re-entry flight performance data and demonstrate early integration capabilities to prepare Orion for deep space exploration.
Born in Dover, New Jersey
Raised in Madison, Indiana
Graduated from Valparaiso University with a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering
What is your contribution to EFT-1?
The Landing Recovery System (LRS) provides the hardware (parachutes, mortars, and uprighting airbags) that will be used on EFT-1. As the Functional Area Manager, my role is to see that the hardware is ready to work, it’s on schedule and we stay within our cost targets.
Why is that contribution important?
The LRS hardware is required to recover the crew module and bring a crew home safely. EFT-1 is an important demonstration of that capability. And, even without crew on EFT-1, if the LRS hardware doesn’t work correctly, we could severely damage or lose the crew module.
Why do you need this flight test, and what do you hope to learn from it?
EFT-1 provides us the opportunity to test Orion at the vehicle level. Until then, we will test the various systems independently, and those tests provide a wealth of information. But the flight test allows us to prove that the various systems tie together and perform as we expect. Specific to the LRS hardware, EFT-1 provides us an opportunity to test in the exact environments that will occur during human missions. Our aircraft-based testing comes close, but the data from EFT-1 will be a very important to us.
What do you find most fulfilling or like best about your job?
We put humans in space. How cool is that? There are lots of smart engineering in the world, but not many get the privilege of working on human spaceflight.
What’s the most interesting part of what you do here at JSC?
Finding the balance between what we want to do for safe flight, what we can afford and what we have time to accomplish. Just as you find the balance, something changes ... and you start again.
What’s your best NASA memory so far?
First docking between the shuttle (STS-71) and the Mir 9.
When you’re not at the office, what do you like to do?
Run (slower than I used to), play soccer in the JSC league. Spent two weeks in Japan last November, rebuilding homes damaged by the Tsunami, just got back from a week of rebuilding homes on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.
What were your career goals as a teenager?
It depended on whether it was deer season or time to go fishing. I don’t recall a specific set of goals. I do remember that I liked both teaching and engineering. Engineering paid more, so I went that path and eventually ended up here.