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Engineer's 'Bond' with Orbiter Earns Honor
For NASA Engineering Directorate employee Lisa Huddleston, pursuing a career in engineering felt natural because of her lifelong interest in science and mathematics. That inclination resulted in her becoming a dedicated employee at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Huddleston recently received the Employee of the Year Award for the newly renamed Launch Vehicle Processing directorate, the office she worked for at the time.

NASA mechanical systems engineer Lisa Huddleston "I am part of a very talented and dedicated team that is very busy and actively participates in a wide variety of investigations and process-improvement activities," said Huddleston, who was surprised by the recognition. "If anything, the team that I work with every day should be the 'Employees of the Year.' "

Huddleston is a NASA mechanical systems engineer for the orbiter leading edge subsystem. She is responsible for the work performed on the orbiter's reinforced carbon-carbon components, thermal protection system and thermal control system.

Image left: Lisa Huddleston, Kennedy Launch Vehicle Processing directorate's Employee of the Year. Photo credit: NASA/KSC

During Discovery's STS-114 mission, on-orbit inspections discovered gap fillers protruding from the orbiter's lower surface, and the bonding process was enhanced for safety in December 2005.

One of her current projects is overseeing the replacement of all gap fillers bonded before that enhanced process began. This project gained attention and ultimately led to Huddleston's selection as an employee of the year.

The experiment focused on determining the best and most reliable method to bond gap fillers on the orbiter. Additionally, she helped to develop a "Monte Carlo" simulation model to better predict the mass of gap fillers and tile putty repairs that could be expected to be released during flight and become a debris concern.

As if ensuring the safety of the space shuttle wasn't enough, Huddleston fills her life with educational opportunities and hobbies.

"I have always had a wide variety of interests that I pursue both at work and outside of work. For example, I am currently working on my certification as a meteorologist. As a result of my many different interests, it seems like I have spent most of my life in school," she said. "I also enjoy Aikido and making desserts. Working with my kids in their various sports and academic activities takes up the rest of my free time."

Engineer practices installing gap-filler between thermal protection tiles. Image right: Engineers practice techniques to eliminate or trim protruding gap fillers that astronauts will use during their spacewalk. The ceramic coated-fabric gap fillers are used to prevent hot gas from seeping into gaps between the space shuttle's protective tiles. Photo credit: NASA/KSC

She has earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Missouri and from Florida Tech in Melbourne, a master's degree in engineering management and a doctorate in environmental science/remote sensing.

She joined NASA in 2003 after working with Lockheed Martin and United Space Alliance for the previous 15 years. Her roles included working on the Space Shuttle Program as a quality engineer and as a systems engineer.

Huddleston added, "To be successful, everything we do requires the full efforts and abilities of everyone on the team, both contractor and NASA. I appreciate this honor and hope to continue working in the space program for many years to come."

Jennifer Wolfinger, Staff Writer
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center