STS-114: Space Shuttle Return to Flight
NASA's Judy Simonds Keeps Accounts As Shuttle Launch Nears
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News release: 05-044
Judy Simonds doesn’t look like a bona fide numbers guru.
There's no green eyeshade on her head, no adding machine clattering away on her desk. But as the financial data manager for the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Simonds keeps some of the most important books at the Center -- and her hard work is helping guide NASA toward STS-114: Space Shuttle Return to Flight in May.
Simonds, manager of the Business and Management Operations division of the Shuttle Propulsion Office -- a position she has held since 2000 -- is responsible for integrating financial data from five Marshall project offices: External Tank, Reusable Solid Rocket Motor, Solid Rocket Booster, Space Shuttle Main Engine and Propulsion Systems Engineering and Integration. Together, these organizations are responsible for the most powerful space propulsion system in the world.
So managing their budget, she says, is no small challenge.
But for this 18-year NASA veteran and former Pentagon finance officer, it's a welcome one. "We're working to safely return the Shuttle fleet to operation," Simonds says, noting NASA is also striving to reach a key milestone of the Vision for Space Exploration -- its ambitious charter to conduct scientific discovery missions throughout the Solar System. That milestone? Concluding Space Shuttle operations in this decade, once International Space Station assembly is complete, in preparation for building next-generation vessels to return humans to the Moon and carry exploration missions across our cosmic neighborhood.
"What could be more important and inspiring than that?" Simonds asks. "You can feel the momentum all over NASA. We feel good about our work, and we’re excited about the future."
A native of Beaumont, Texas, Simonds earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1968 from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and holds a 1973 master’s degree in business administration from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville.
She has balanced books her entire professional life, from an entry-level accounting job in the petroleum industry after college to a variety of government service assignments.
She says a life devoted to numbers paid off in ways she never expected when she first stumbled into her career. “My mother suggested I take a bookkeeping class in high school,” she recalls. "I’d never given it any thought before, but that’s when I fell in love with numbers. I realized how much I enjoy seeing things balance out."
Even so, those early years left her feeling a bit out of balance, Simonds admits, as she and her husband Charlie, post-graduation newlyweds, bounced across the nation, following civil service opportunities from Louisiana to Oklahoma, to Tennessee, to Alabama.
In 1979, with their two small children in tow, the couple made a final jump… and stayed put for 14 years. Ironically, it was that move -- to the chaotic hustle of the nation’s capital -- that eventually restored Simonds’ balance. In 1987, working as an Air Force accountant in the Pentagon, she learned of an accounting position open at NASA. She was hired as a budget manager for the Space Station Freedom Office -- the organization that, a decade later, led to joint development by 16 nations of the International Space Station.
While balancing Freedom’s books, Simonds quickly immersed herself in information about NASA and its mission -- an opportunity for growth she considers one of the Agency’s great strengths."At NASA, you’re encouraged to learn everything you can about the organization and its goals," she says, "to become personally vested in this work."
That has never been truer than now, Simonds says, with STS-114 -- the Space Shuttle Discovery flight that will put Americans back in space -- just a couple of months away.
"The people of NASA are walking a clearer path these days," she says, "choosing more judiciously those things we have to do to fly safely as well as productively."
What does it take to do both?
Judy Simonds smiles. "Balance," she says. And she should know.
For more information on the Web about STS-114 and America’s return to spaceflight, visit:
For more information about NASA’s mission and the Vision for Space Exploration, visit: