Former Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats made a special appearance at the White Sands Test Facility in late October 2012 to announce the new site manager and deputy manager: John McManamen and Robert Cort.
Retiring site manager Frank Benz has completed a distinguished 45-year career with NASA. Benz began his career in 1977 as a Test Project Engineer in the Laboratories Office at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M. He held increasingly responsible positions with NASA, including the Chief of the Laboratories Programs Section, Chief of the Laboratories Office, and Director of the Engineering Directorate at Johnson Space Center. During his career, Benz received two NASA Distinguished Service Awards, NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Silver Snoopy Award, Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
A retired U.S. Navy captain, Coats ended a 44-year career that spanned 20 years with NASA, with seven years as center director. Coats' NASA career began in 1978 when he earned a spot in the first astronaut class specifically selected to fly the space shuttle. He flew three shuttle missions, the first as pilot for the maiden flight of Discovery in 1984. He commanded two subsequent shuttle missions, logging more than 463 hours in space. Deputy Director Ellen Ochoa was selected as Director of the Johnson Space Center.
Coats told the audience in the Rotunda that, "You work at a hazardous facility, and I am proud of the work you do here. This is an outstanding new team management who will lead you into a successful future."
Benz also complimented the work force. "A couple of years ago, we were known as an agency asset. Today, we are recognized as a national asset because of our technical expertise. We put together a great team for you and White Sands' future. John has spent year learning about us, and Bob has spent many years here; and I am confident they will lead you into an excellent future."
Also announced was the selection of David Baker as Associate Manager, Technical, replacing Robert Cort. Baker is currently Propulsion Office Chief.
McManamen holds Bachelors and Masters of Science Degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado and has held increasingly responsible positions at NASA Johnson Space Center including the Engineering Directorate's Chief Engineer of the ISS Program, Chief Engineer of the Space Shuttle Program, and most recently Deputy Manager, White Sands Test Facility. McManamen is the recipient of two US patents including the crew escape system designed for the Space Shuttle and a predecessor design of the International Space Station docking systems.
Cort earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico State University. He was selected, most recently, Associate Manager, Technical, and previously was Chief of Propulsion Test Office. In 1996, Cort was Project Manager of the Cassini-Huygens Mission test engine firings at WSTF, prior to its launch October 15, 1997. The tests at WSTF initially found a design flaw (low-frequency feed-system-coupled combustion instability) that could have caused the engine to fail in flight and ruin the mission. The system was subsequently redesigned, and the revised propulsion system successfully operated for 200 minutes, demonstrating a nearly two-fold margin of safety for performing this critical maneuver nearly seven years after Cassini-Huygens' launch.
McManamen and Cort thanked the workforce for their trust in them as the site's new leadership team.
For more information on the unique testing capabilities of the White Sands Test Facility, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wstf/home/index.html
For more information about NASA's Cassini-Huygens Mission, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/details.php?id=5866
Cheerie R. Patneaude
NASA’s White Sands Test Facility