NASA Marshall Center's Robert Lake Jr., Ensures Science Has a Place in Space
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News Release: 05-093
NASA's Robert Lake Jr. once dreamed of being the next Frank Lloyd Wright, designing some of the most unique structures in the world. Today, he's an "architect" of a different kind, helping to build one of the most complex facilities ever constructed -- the International Space Station.
Lake is helping develop equipment such as science experiment racks for the Space Station – the orbiting research complex that NASA and 15 other nations are building in space.
The facilities are a key element in research that will determine how microgravity -- the weightless environment of space -- affects living organisms. Results will be used to determine the potential long-term affects of low gravity on humans living for extended periods of time in space.
"If I were the lead systems engineer for a new car project, and this car was supposed to get 50 miles per gallon of gasoline, my job would be to make sure it gets 50 miles per gallon," says Lake. "Similarly, I’m responsible for developing facilities that will perform the job they are meant to do -- support research that will contribute to the Vision for Space Exploration." The Vision calls for the Space Shuttles' safe return to flight, to complete the International Space Station, and for human and robotic exploration of the Solar System.
Lake grew up in Huntsville, where his father, Robert Sr., was a systems engineer for more than 30 years in the Marshall Center's Payload Projects Office. He retired in 1997.
In 1987, during his professional intern program, Lake worked alongside his future father-in-law, Lewis Logan in Marshall's Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle Project Office. His work involved development of a short-range "space tugboat" that would someday ferry payloads to and from the Space Shuttle and orbiting satellites.
Lake graduated from Lee High School in Huntsville in 1981. After earning a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1986, he applied for a job as an engineer at the Marshall Center. "My interview was in the Propulsion Test Area where the Saturn V rocket engines were tested for the vehicle that took the first men to the Moon," says Lake. "The prospect of working on rocket engine tests was too good to pass up."
Lake joined the Marshall Center full time as an instrumentation engineer in the Propulsion Test Division, responsible for measuring and recording the various engineering parameters such as pressure, temperature and voltage for the Space Station thruster test –- a small rocket engine test bed for possible use to re-boost the Station's altitude on orbit.
He has since worked on such projects as the Multi-Purpose Hydrogen Test Bed, which tested various technologies for handling liquid hydrogen while in Earth orbit or deep space; the Hydrogen Bearing Tester, used for testing new materials for the bearings used on the liquid hydrogen turbo pump on the Space Shuttle Main Engine; and the Solid Propulsion Test Article, a 48-inch solid rocket motor used to test prospective new materials for the redesigned Solid Rocket Motor.
At NASA, Lake has earned several honors, including the Marshall Center Director's Commendation in 1999 for exceptional innovation and expertise in the development of vacuum test instrumentation systems. He received a Flight Projects Director's Award in 2003 for outstanding leadership as the lead systems engineer in the development of the Habitat Holding Rack for the Biological Research Project. He earned a NASA Special Service Award in 2004 for his work on that project, as well. Lake earned a Flight Projects Award for exemplifying Marshall Center values to his customers in 2003.
In his leisure time, Lake is an avid cyclist – completing a 100 kilometer race in 2004.
Lake and his wife, the former Julie Logan of Huntsville, and their two children Evan and Bridgett, reside in Huntsville.
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