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November 8, 2002

John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(281) 483-5111

Release: #J02-113 -- Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar Inducted Into NAE

Astronaut Bonnie J. Dunbar, Johnson Space Center assistant director for university research, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineers (NAE). The induction is among the highest professional honors for engineers. Induction recognizes individuals who have made "important contributions to engineering theory and practice, including significant contributions to the literature." It also honors engineers who have achieved "unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology," the NAE said.

Dunbar was cited for "personal leadership and significant career contributions to engineering design problems in human space flight and to on-orbit operations." She was among 74 engineers elected to membership in the class of 2002. Seven new foreign associates also were named.

"We are gratified that Dr. Dunbar has been selected for this prestigious recognition," said Jefferson D. Howell Jr., Johnson Space Center director. "Her election is well deserved. It reflects not only her own considerable competence, but also is a high compliment to the people with whom she has worked."

Dunbar said: "I am proud to be an engineer and am grateful for the opportunity to practice this time-honored profession. I can think of no higher honor as an engineer than to be selected to the NAE." She said she must share the honor of her selection "with the many mentors and colleagues over the years in industry, academia, and at NASA."

Born in Sunnyside, Wash., she received a B.S. in 1971 and an M.S. in 1975 in ceramic engineering from the University of Washington. She earned her doctorate in mechanical/biomedical engineering from the University of Houston in 1983, where she served as an adjunct assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

After she received her bachelor's degree, she worked for Boeing Computer Services for two years as a systems analyst. In 1975, she was invited to participate in research at Harwell Laboratories in Oxford, England, as a visiting scientist. Subsequently she accepted a senior research engineer position with Rockwell International Space Division in Downey, Calif. She was named Rockwell Space Division Engineer of the Year for 1977 for contributions to development of equipment and processes for manufacture of the space shuttle thermal protection system.

She is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, an elected foreign member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and has been awarded five honorary doctorates. She also is a licensed professional engineer in Texas.

Dunbar joined NASA as a payload officer/flight controller at Johnson Space Center in 1978 for the Skylab re-entry mission and was subsequently designated project officer/payload officer for the integration of several space shuttle payloads.

She was selected as an astronaut in 1980. After technical assignments which included assisting in verification of shuttle flight software at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), serving as a member of the Flight Crew Equipment Control Board, and helping in operational develop the shuttle's robotic arm, she became Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1993.

Beginning in February 1994, she spent 13 months training as a backup crewmember for a three-month flight on the Russian space station Mir.

During her spaceflight career, which spanned five shuttle missions, she remained active in engineering design programs and edited a 1983 book, "Materials Processing in Space," for the American Ceramic Society. In 1987 Dunbar chaired the NASA Microgravity Materials Processing Task Force, which recommended a flight program for microgravity research, and the development of specialized equipment for that research. That research contributed to development of the STS-50 mission in 1992 on which she was payload commander.

She was instrumental in the design and development of several on-orbit research facilities and orbital research operational protocols. She led the effort to develop specific criteria for identifying on-orbit laboratory safety rules.

The NAE was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences as an organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members. It shares with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. It also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. NAE has 2,107 members in the United States and 158 foreign associates.

 

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