NASA People

Center Snapshot: Evan Horowitz
03.16.09
Evan Horowitz. Image above: Evan Horowitz. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

Walk through the door of Evan Horowitz's office in the Hangar and you sense you have stepped into a time warp. He sits behind his desk, hands working a slide rule, pencil and paper at the ready, evaluating on a bracket for some equipment.

A slide rule in the era of digital computing?

"Why settle for approximately the right answer, when you can have exactly the wrong answer to 15 decimal places?" Horowitz quipped.

He laughs easily. Horowitz, who works in the Research Services Directorate, is the guy with the dog seen everywhere at NASA Langley. "Belle," a golden retriever, lays under his desk, part of her training.

He's one of the guys responsible for flight safety – specifically flight vehicle structural integrity. Horowitz calls himself "a problem solver," as he has been for most of his work life. Horowitz has four and a half years with NASA, after more than 20 years in the commercial airplane business, 10 with Boeing, most spent supporting the company's workhorse, the 737 passenger plane.

"At any time, there are 850 Boeing 737s in the air," Horowitz said. "At any given moment, 100,000 people are riding on my work."

The dogs. Horowitz gets them as pups, six to eight weeks old, just after they are weaned. He returns them at 12 to 15 months old, when they're ready for training. In between, he feeds, raises and "socializes" the dog.

Belle's predecessor was half-sister ARIES – for Airborne Research Integration Experiment System, the Boeing 757 that once flew out of Langley. The 757 left the center two years ago. ARIES left last year and is helping a vision-impaired person in Rosario, Argentina, now.

As for other hobbies, "I like to work with my hands and get great satisfaction out of building things," Horowitz said.

They include museum-quality tall ships, an HO train system with more than 60 locomotives, plus cars, wooden toys and stuffed animals. He also plays piano and collects books and Coca-Cola and Disney memorabilia.

"Give me a set of blueprints and I'll build what you want," Horowitz said.

He has also restored more than a dozen cars and helped older brother Scott Horowitz, a former astronaut, build an airplane.

"Scott is more into flying," Horowitz said. "I'm more into building."

At Langley, he's building a one-fifth scale model of a new prototype simulator for Orion, the next generation space exploration vehicle; and for Altair, the Lunar Surface Access Module. The simulator takes into account a growing field of astronaut candidates.

"Back in the Mercury days, an astronaut had to be 5-feet-11," Horowitz said. "A lot of great minds don't come in a 5-foot-11-inch body."

Perhaps someday a 4-foot-8- or 6-foot-5-inch astronaut will thank him.

Horowitz admits to some anachronistic habits.

When he writes at home, he does so with a quill and an ink well. The time warp, apparently, isn't limited to NASA Langley.

"Writing used to be an art," Horowitz said. "Not only are e-communications impersonal, but the use of cryptic text is butchering our language."

And then there is the slide rule. He's not wedded to it, but will use it for an occasional quick calculation.

"This is from 1978," he said, holding up the slide rule. "It's one of the last built. I got it when a four-function calculator with an LED display cost $200."

He wears a fully functioning abacas tie clip as a backup.

Now a scientific calculator costs about $20. You get an answer, but perhaps not as much satisfaction.