African-American Engineer Conducts Science In Space
Marta Metelko |
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
March 10, 2004
Lybrease Woodard, Payload Operations Director at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., leads flight controllers in planning and coordinating science activities for crews onboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA Marshall)
NASA engineer Lybrease Woodard orchestrates science operations aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as if she's conducting a symphony. She leads a complex, talented group of players and instruments, whose scientific findings are music to so many ears here on Earth.
Woodard's "podium," however, is earthbound. As a NASA payload operations director, she orchestrates ISS science activities from the Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala.
"When I watch space crews carry out activities I helped plan, I feel like I'm right there beside them, helping them successfully complete the job," Woodard said.
That achievement is important to Woodard, a Huntsville native whose close-knit African-American family fostered her strong work ethic. "They instilled in me a positive belief system that I could accomplish great things," she said.
After graduating in 1977 from Huntsville High School, where she concentrated on math and science, Woodard signed up for MSFC's cooperative education program. The program introduces high school graduates to the NASA workforce the summer prior to their first semester in college.
"I was recommended for the program by my high school guidance counselor, which speaks very highly of the important role counselors play in identifying potential in our high school kids," Woodard said.
In 1981, Woodard, the youngest of four children, became the first of her siblings to graduate from college. She received an industrial engineering degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Since then, she has continued her NASA career, supporting numerous space crews who have performed hundreds of experiments on Spacelab, a laboratory that carried out science missions inside the Space Shuttle's payload bay, and the ISS.
Today, Woodard leads a team of flight controllers responsible for all science aboard the ISS, the most sophisticated, world-class laboratory ever placed in orbit. She paved the way for ISS science operations when she served as the lead payload operations director for Expedition 2, from March to August 2001.
Expedition 2 was the second research mission on the ISS and the first to use the Station's Destiny laboratory. It also was the first expedition with science operations controlled 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the Payload Operations Center cadre at MSFC. Woodard, a pioneer in NASA crew operations, helped ensure the success of Expedition 2 by leading a team of more than 60 flight controllers.
Woodard's success led to her next assignment, a lead payload operations director on Expedition 8, the current crew aboard the ISS. During the expedition, the science team in space and on the ground performs research across a variety of scientific disciplines that will contribute to our understanding of the human body in space, Earth's environment, medicine, manufacturing processes and other fields.
"I am blessed when I can make someone's dreams come true," Woodard said. "If I can make this happen for the scientists by implementing their desires, then I consider myself a success; and, if I can add to the ISS crew's probability for success by dotting the i's and crossing the t's, then it has been a good day."
Media organizations interested in interviewing Woodard should contact Betty Humphrey at MSFC's Office of Public Affairs at (256) 544-8992.
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