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For release: 07/07/04
Release #: 04-181  

NASA Marshall Center's Stacy Counts helps 'tiny travelers' get to space

Photo description: Counts

Astronauts and cosmonauts living and working on the International Space Station will one day have company. And the Marshall Center’s Stacy Counts is helping some of these tiniest of travelers — mice, fish, fruit flies and plants — get to space.

Photo: Counts (NASA/MSFC)



Astronauts and cosmonauts living and working on the International Space Station will one day have company. And NASA's Stacy Counts is helping some of these tiniest of travelers get to space.

Counts is NASA's project manager for Habitat Holding Racks that will carry mice, and potentially fish, fruit flies, plant species, and other organisms to the Space Station — the orbiting research complex that NASA and 15 other nations are building in space.

The three racks, being developed for the Biological Research Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are a key element in research that will determine how microgravity — the weightless environment of space — affects the organisms. Results will be used to determine the potential long-term affects of microgravity on humans working extended periods of time on board the Space Station.

"We have the capability to develop hardware that will capture and document science research for future generations," says Counts. "The Space Station will allow for all kinds of science advances that better prepare the next generation of crew personnel to live and conduct science in a microgravity environment. We are supporting research that will contribute to the Vision for Space Exploration of returning to the Moon and beyond."

Counts grew up in Huntsville, where both her parents retired from the Marshall Center . Her father, Parker, worked 40 years for NASA, managing such projects as the Space Shuttle External Tank — the large, orange fuel tank the Space Shuttle "rides" into orbit, and the Solid Rocket Boosters that help lift the vehicle into orbit. Her mother, Peggy, was an administrative assistant at the Marshall Center for 20 years.

Counts graduated from Grissom High School in 1985 and earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., in 1991. That's when she began her career at the Marshall Center as a data management coordinator for the ATLAS missions — the Space Shuttle-borne remote-sensing laboratory that studied the Earth's atmosphere and the Sun's influence on our climate system. She performed a similar role for other Spacelab missions such as United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML) — a low-gravity science laboratory that carried various experiments in the Shuttle's payload, or cargo bay area.

Following in the footsteps of her father, she moved into project management. While pursuing a master's degree in engineering management, which she received in 1998 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Counts began overseeing a software database project called the Payload Data Library. Today, this database is used to collect and review payload data prior to its launch.

In 1998, Counts managed a team tasked with developing and manufacturing a payload drawer design that would meet the needs of payload users as well as crew personnel on the Space Station. Counts worked closely with international partners from Europe, Canada, Italy and Japan to create an International drawer design that would meet the needs of the Space Station partners.

"What I enjoy most about this job is interfacing with a variety of people," says Counts. "It's our job to work together as a team and get the best results for everyone involved."

Counts' expertise led to work managing the development of EXPRESS flight racks. EXPRESS stands for EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station, reflecting the fact this system was developed specifically to maximize the Station's research capabilities. The project consists of the design, development and qualification of flight racks and associated ground support hardware for Space Station.

During her NASA career, Counts has earned several honors, including the Marshall Center Director's Commendation for overall direction of the Data Management Team for the testing and flight of the third ATLAS Spacelab mission.

This year, Counts is a candidate for NASA's Leadership Development Program, which helps to build and train effective leaders for the organization.

In her free time, Counts is usually playing T-ball, soccer or riding bikes with her son, Ryan. Although he seems to have a fascination for the Space Shuttle, it remains to be seen whether he will be the next in line to join the NASA family.

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