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Roe Delivers Keynote Speech at SpaceVision Conference
More than 300 university students from across the nation stared wide-eyed as a video of the International Space Station (ISS) played in front of them. Images they saw were taken by the crew on board the ISS. Thoughts rushed through their heads.

Lesa Roe, Space Vision Conference.

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NASA’s Langley Center Director, Lesa Roe, was a keynote speaker at the SpaceVision 2012 conference held in Buffalo, NY. She discussed challenges that the current generation could help solve. Credit: NASA

"That could be me one day."

"Where do I fit in in all of this?"

"How do I become part of NASA's and industry's mission?"

Director of NASA's Langley Research Center Lesa Roe, attempted to answer all of these questions and many more.

Roe was a keynote speaker at the 2012 SpaceVision conference, held in Buffalo, NY, which is the largest student-run and student-focused space conference in the nation. The theme, "Crossroads: How Our Generation Will Take Us to the Space Frontier," gave Roe the opportunity to share Langley's accomplishments, missions and goals along with challenges faced by NASA and industry. Solutions to these challenges are where the students play a key role. They're our future engineers, scientists, researchers and leaders.

"None of NASA's missions are simple feats," Roe said. "There are challenges involved – challenges that you can help solve." Roe discussed many challenges the students could be involved in, one being NASA’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the future of aircraft.

"We are in a global economy that is increasingly more competitive, and companies, communities and citizens are relying on aviation more than ever before," Roe said.

Langley is pursuing research in self-separation, damage recovery and flight controls and sees great potential for UAS. Missions in UAS will be wide-ranging including surveillance, criminal pursuit, firefighting, drought monitoring and even tracking insect or disease infestation.

To do aeronautics research, you have to fly through an atmosphere – no matter what type of mission – sky and space.

Roe also discussed the challenges of reaching an asteroid, the Moon and Mars, such as radiation, hazardous Martian dust and long duration habitation to maintain the crew’s health and safety during the mission.

As Roe continued to talk about other challenges, NASA’s missions and its collaboration with commercial space and industry, her display of confidence in the students continued to radiate, especially when she expressed her excitement about one of the nation’s top priorities - to improve and increase the quality of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce.

"To make this happen, and to ensure that there’s a healthy pipeline of STEM skills for NASA, as well as other industries, our nation will have to recruit, graduate and retain 1 million STEM students over the next decade," Roe said. "This is an exciting time to be entering into these fields, and your passion, drive and commitment to learning, to making a difference, gives me hope that the future of aerospace exploration is in good hands."

Two of Langley’s own were panel speakers at the conference and were living proof of the difference the students could make. Jody Davis, who works in Langley’s Atmospheric Flight & Entry Systems Branch, spoke to the students about her role in the Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing (MSL EDL).

"I was able to connect with quite a few engineering students - many of them female students - and they were extremely interested in our work on the MSL EDL and simulation," Davis said.

Former Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholar, Katie Campbell, shared her experience working on one of Langley’s advanced EDL systems: Hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators (HIAD).

"It went great!" Campbell said. "Everyone had lots of questions after and was really excited about the HIAD concept."

The speakers’ experiences at NASA stem from something deeper than just their interests.

"We need something to be a part of – something to believe in – something bigger than ourselves." Roe said. "What could be more compelling and rewarding than searching for the origins of our Universe?"

And that's what Roe, Davis and Campbell set out to do.

Many will follow in their footsteps.

"I can't wait to see what you’ll do for NASA, industry and most importantly our nation," Roe said. “As Walt Disney said, 'It's quite fun to do the impossible.' "

By: Sasha Congiu

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman