NASA's Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, began his visit at NASA's Langley Research in typical fashion - as a leader. He ended it in an atypical role - as a mentee being mentored by researchers.
In front of a packed auditorium for a Town Meeting, Lightfoot discussed the ties of an "integrated investment strategy" for the President's proposed $17.7 million budget for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14), which include:
- Earth science and Aeronautics - Understanding and protecting the Earth
- ISS and Commercial Crew - Conducting valuable research in space
- NASA's Space Launch System, Orion MPCV, Space Technology and Asteroid Strategy - Extending human reach into deep space
- Heliophysics, Planetary, Astrophysics - Exploring the solar system and beyond
Robert Lightfoot led a Town Meeting at NASA's Langley Research Center, followed by "reverse mentoring" sessions with employees.
Credit: NASA/Dave Bowman
At the center of those ties, Lightfoot noted the people.
"When we talk about what we're doing as an Agency we want to discuss why we are here, what are we trying to do," Lightfoot said. "It's easy to lose that concept sometimes … we're tenants for what we do."
Later in the day, Lightfoot, who is the Agency's highest-ranking civil servant, immersed himself into several work areas as part of a "reverse mentoring" effort. Lightfoot is one of several high-ranking NASA officials who will engage in work processes across NASA centers.
During a visit to the materials research lab, Craig Brice went into detail about metallic materials processing and analysis. As Brice explained the processes, Lightfoot asked about the applications. Brice explained that the center is advancing additive manufacturing techniques to eventually create parts aboard the International Space Station and for future manned missions in space.
Again, as Lightfoot continued his session through an insect adhesion mitigation overview with Chris Wohl of Langley's Advanced Material and Processing Branch, he asked about applications. Wohl explained that a new coating being developed would maintain laminar flow of NextGen (Next Generation Air Support System) aircraft, with potential applications with other vehicles that use a similar coating.
NASA's Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot visited NASA's Langley Research Center on Wednesday, May 29. His visit included a Town Meeting and several reverse mentoring sessions. Credit: NASA/Gary Banziger
Lightfoot also participated in sessions about the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate and he attended a decision support team meeting with Systems Analysis & Concepts Development.
Throughout the afternoon, Lightfoot asked questions that begged honest answers - questions about barriers to accomplishing research - adding that such feedback often becomes "filtered" before it gets to him.
"It's better to know than not know," Lightfoot said. "This process gives us a chance to help folks get the job done. I can't win the lottery if I don't buy a ticket."
His temporary status as a mentee revealed new insight that doesn't come with a typical day. Yet, his actual role could allow him to suggest positive change.
"It was inspiring to see our senior leadership step away from what they know and what they are comfortable with to learn something new," Brice said. "It sets a good example for all NASA employees and encourages us to engage in lifelong learning.
"We should all try to get out of our comfort zone every now and then and learn something new."
By: Denise Lineberry
The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman