John C. Stennis Space Center
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
Most of us would not get a thrill out of seeing our hard work crash, but Karma Snyder – a project manager at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center – was anxious to see the rocket engine she helped design smash into the moon during the wee hours of Oct. 9.
Snyder was a senior design engineer on the RL10 liquid rocket engine that powered the Centaur, the upper stage of the rocket in NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission. Part of the LCROSS mission was to search for water on the moon by striking the lunar surface with a rocket, creating a plume of debris that could be analyzed for water ice and vapor.
Snyder's work on the RL10 took place from 1995 to 2001 when she was a senior design engineer with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Years later, she sees the project as one of her biggest accomplishments in light of the LCROSS mission.
"I'm excited because I had so much to do with that engine, and when a design engineer works on an engine it becomes your baby," Snyder says. "It's wonderful to see it come into full service. As one of my co-workers said, the original dream was to get that engine to the moon and we're finally realizing that dream."
The mission was aired live online and on NASA-TV on Oct. 9. Snyder said she shared the moment with her family by watching online at their home. "I got goose bumps," she said. "We were all very excited about it."
Snyder could see more of her hard work moon-bound with NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon. She worked in a collaborative effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force to develop technology that was used to upgrade the J2 engine that was used on Saturn V (in NASA's earlier moon missions) to the J-2X engine, which will power the Ares I upper stage and Ares V Earth departure stage for future moon missions as part of the Constellation Program.
Just like on Earth, water will be a crucial resource on the moon. Transporting water and other goods from Earth to the moon's surface is expensive. Finding natural resources, such as water ice, on the moon could help expedite lunar exploration.
"This is a great day for science and exploration," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The LCROSS data should prove to be an impressive addition to the tremendous leaps in knowledge about the moon that have been achieved in recent weeks."
Snyder graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and is close to attaining a master's in aerospace engineering, also from Auburn. She came to NASA in 2001 as a system integration engineer. She is a native of Biloxi and a resident of Diamondhead.
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