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Susan H. Anderson Given Prestigious Women in Aerospace Award
Susan Anderson and Lori Garver

From left, Susan H. Anderson, Women in Aerospace award winner, receives her plaque from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. Photo Credit: Women in Aerospace

Women in Aerospace, an organization dedicated to expanding women’s opportunities for leadership and increasing their visibility in the aerospace community, recognized Johnson Space Center communicator Susan H. Anderson with the prestigious Aerospace Awareness Award. Anderson received her award at a gala in Washington, D.C., from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

“Initially it was a shock,” Anderson said of the award. “Such an honor bestowed on me, and I’m very humbled by the recognition. The others being recognized seem to have a résumé that far outweighs anything I have done.”

Indeed, Anderson isn’t your typical aerospace award recipient. She doesn’t command flying machines—but she does organize and galvanize outreach opportunities all in the name of spreading NASA’s story. Now more than ever, her efforts are important in keeping space relevant for the general public.

From Anderson’s nomination write-up: “In planning outreach, she is a great collaborator, both within NASA and with external contacts. She brings the best together to create a story that is the ‘why’ of NASA programs. Susan’s vast network of people that she has interacted with in industry, government and academia allows her to see events from different perspectives and tailor the experiences to the unique audiences. Susan is the person that wants to be in the background, as all the magic happens around her. Her contributions to young and old, advancing knowledge of space and space travel are amazing, and many times unrecognized.”

For Anderson, it’s easy to be inspired by NASA and, in turn, share that wonder and excitement.

“We do really cool stuff—things previously only done by NASA,” Anderson said. “Things kids daydream about doing or becoming. If I couldn’t be an engineer or scientist myself, why not at least encourage others to pursue those careers? I’m good at talking one-on-one with others, so outreach is a natural gift for me, and NASA’s mission of exploration is the inspiration.”

Currently, Anderson works with the Destination Station outreach campaign in the JSC External Relations Office, spreading the good work being done to further science investigations aboard our orbiting laboratory now that space station assembly is a thing of the past. But there have been many other NASA activities where Anderson has shined.

“I’ll always remember my first Education Alley experience in Long Beach at the Space Conference,” Anderson said. “All these kids lined up in the lobby and outside. Each of them was ready to learn about all types of science and engineering careers. They were especially excited to meet people from NASA—almost like they couldn’t believe it! Going to Space Day Austin has been great, too—the hands-on learning experiences and the interaction with parents and lawmakers. It’s wonderful to talk with others when they seem truly interested in what you are sharing. World Stamp Expo and World Space Congress were also great memories of logistical plans and great content being shared in a public venue. However, I think my favorite is going out to schools and talking with kids in a smaller environment. Thirty or so kids, sitting on the floor, hands in the air, anxious to get answers—that’s inspiration! You know those kids go home that night and talk about the person from NASA that visited their classroom.”

Anderson’s Aerospace Awareness Award was given for contributions such as building public awareness of aerospace programs and developments, as well as serving as a role model who showed dedication to the advancement of women in aerospace. But she does not need to stand alone, and any one of us at JSC could do the same.

“If you’re passionate about your work, then it’s easy to share,” Anderson said. “Nearly everyone I run across or tour around the center talks positively about their interaction with the people who work here. They see the folks here love their work and want others to know about what we do. I’d recommend trying not to talk too much about budgets, and it’s OK to talk briefly about the past … but it’s best to talk about the possibilities. Focus on the possibilities—always!”
Catherine Ragin Williams