Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Missouri Native Prepares Payloads for Shuttle's Return to Flight
Scott Higginbotham, a Missouri native, remembers watching the launch of Apollo 11 when he was just three years old from his home in Springfield and getting hooked on space.
Today, he is a NASA mission manager in the International Space Station (ISS) and Payload Processing Directorate at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., where he recently witnessed the Return to Flight of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-114 from the Launch Control Center.
Higginbotham leads a multidisciplinary team of engineers and technicians who assemble and test the experiments, satellites and ISS components that fly aboard the Space Shuttle. Along with the payload processing team, he worked on recertifying and revalidating processing procedures for the STS-114 payloads, including the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello and the Human Research Facility-2.
"Though this was by far a more complicated set of hardware to process, it is the safest set of flight hardware we have ever flown," said Higginbotham. "The team responded to all the challenges that came our way by finding creative, fast and innovative ways to solve problems."
By the time he was a high school student, Higginbotham had amassed a large collection of space-related books and memorabilia. He was a regional winner in a NASA Student Involvement Project for which he developed and wrote the process for a space experiment for mixing two components of urethane foam in microgravity. "I was interested in everything space-related. I even wrote papers on the Russian space program," said Higginbotham.
Higginbotham credits his parents and high school teachers for encouraging him to pursue his dream, which led him to NASA after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1987.
He began his career working as an External Tank (ET) mechanical systems engineer from 1987 to 1993 when his primary responsibilities were integration, acceptance, testing and launch preparation of ET structures, thermal protection systems and associated ground support equipment.
In 1993, he became a Payload Mission Operations engineer, responsible for planning, scheduling and coordinating payload assembly and test operations. He moved into his current position in 1995.
"I wanted to be an astronaut," said Higginbotham. "But being at KSC and being part of the space program is the next best thing. The Vision for Space Exploration is an important endeavor."
He is the recipient of two NASA Space Flight Awareness awards, a KSC Certificate of Commendation, and 12 NASA Group Achievement Awards.
Higginbotham and his wife, Bridgit, also a NASA employee, are the parents of six-year-old twin girls, Caitlin and Haley. He is the son of Vic and Pat Higginbotham of Lamar.
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