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Lisa Mazzuca - To the Rescue!
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From work to play, Dr. Lisa M. Mazzuca is beaconed on search and rescue.

Name: Dr. Lisa M. Mazzuca
Title: Mission Manager for NASA Search and Rescue
Formal Job Classification: Technical Management
Organization: Code 450, Exploration and Space Communications Projects, Flight Projects Directorate

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?

I am the Mission Manager for NASA Search and Rescue (SAR). Our office is part of a 42-country effort that uses spacecraft to locate people in distress. We use commercially-available beacons operational from the ground, air or sea. Anyone in distress on the ground can push a button on the beacon, which then sends a signal to NOAA/NASA spacecraft (GOES and POES satellites). Beacons on most aircraft or marine vessels can also automatically sense the distress and activate the signal. The SAR instrument picks up the emergency signal and relays it back to Earth where it reaches a local ground terminal that calculates the location of the distress. These ground terminals are all over the world, so anyone anywhere in the world can hit the distress button and will be found by rescue crews.
Photo of Lisa Mazzuca› Larger image
Photo of Lisa Mazzuca. Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk

Although NASA is not part of the actual search, NASA conducts research and development on the newest technologies and is involved in the international humanitarian SAR effort known as COSPAS-SARSAT. Since 1982, COSPAS-SARSAT has saved approximately 33,000 lives, which is an average of approximately three saves a day somewhere in the world. About a million beacons (civilian and military) are in use throughout the world, which are especially helpful in remote wilderness locations where GPS or a cell phone may not work. I was drawn to this job by the humanitarian component.

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What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?

In 2009, I was on the launch support team for the last Hubble servicing mission. Goddard built the device that allowed personnel at the Space Telescope Operations Control Center at Goddard to communicate with Hubble while it was docked to the Shuttle. I oversaw the installation into the Shuttle Atlantis’ cockpit at Kennedy Space Center, watched the launch and then returned to Goddard where I was one of the two lead Government Anomaly Resolution Managers. I was as proud as can be when the mission was successfully completed.
Lisa as a search and rescue flight officer with the Baltimore County Auxiliary Police.› Larger image
Lisa Mazzuca in front of one of the Baltimore County Police helicopters. Image courtesy of: L. Mazzuca

What makes Goddard a great place to work?

In addition to the diversity in our work and being able to interact with highly intelligent people, I am especially thankful that Goddard paid for me to get a masters in physics, a second masters in astronomy and a doctorate in astronomy. I am multilingual because I can speak “engineer” as well as “scientist.”

What advice would you give someone who is lost or injured?

Before you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, buy one of the 406 MHz SARSAT satellite-based beacons, which are readily available in marine and sporting goods stores, and register it. This is the most reliable type of distress beacon available. The battery lasts about five years, so make sure your battery is current. Once you push the button, the device will continue to send a signal until it is turned off either by the user or first responders. We will get your signal, so don’t panic. We will find you.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, or activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

After graduating from the Baltimore County Auxiliary Police Academy in 1994, I was sworn in as an Auxiliary Officer of the aviation and marine units. Since then, about every other weekend, I volunteer as a SAR flight officer and hoist operator on the helicopters as well as a first mate on the boats.

Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax or have fun?

I often take my nieces and nephews on day trips. Everyone tries to meet at my parent’s house for Sunday dinner. I also enjoy working on my house.

Is there someplace in the world that you want to visit or someplace you have been and want to go back?

I want to visit every continent and see the seven ancient wonders of the world. I am also part of a group that synchronizes our travels to natural phenomenon such as eclipses and auroral events.

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD