NASA People

Center Snapshot: Josh Branch
06.08.09
Josh Branch. Image above: When Josh Branch isn't preparing models for testing in the National Transonic Facility, he's usually on a motorcycle. NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

The job is intricate, exacting, so laden with detail that it must pass NASA scrutiny in more than 20 areas before the product can be used in a wind tunnel.

When Josh Branch puts together a model to be tested in the National Transonic Facility, it has to be a dead-on replica of the aircraft it is intended to represent, right down to the smallest protruding, potentially wind-deflecting, technology-altering rivet.

And it's done at 2 percent scale.

In his away-from-NASA Langley job in home improvements, the work is almost as intricate. Flooring must be level, doors hung straight, windows tight, cabinets just so.

That attention to detail, that pressure for perfection on both jobs feeds a desire off the job to just let things go. The best way, Branch said, is to jump on a motorcycle.

In his case, specifically on a Suzuki GSX 600.

A fast one.

To Branch, a ROME contractor, the logic of riding a motorcycle before the wind is sound. He finds riding to be therapeutic, even if it occasionally disturbed by flashing blue lights.

He came to Langley seven years ago to work with plant systems at the National Transonic Facility. When a contract change opened up a model tech position, it seemed natural for him to apply.

"I'm just good with my hands," he said simply. "I try and stick to what I'm comfortable with."

To borrow a cliché, Branch marches to his own drummer. The need for speed is accompanied by tattoos, some of which tell a story, and of light brown hair that was last cut six years ago. The dreadlocks came 4 ½ years ago, he said, "just because I always wanted to."

With all of the exactitude involved in his job, Branch acknowledges a little pressure comes with it.

"Life in general means pressure, if you allow it to," he said. "You choose your stress."

And the way to remedy it.