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Center Snapshot: Richard Martin
Snapshot: Richard Martin. Image above: Richard Martin is an engineering technician who operates NASA Langley's Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication technology. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

When Richard Martin is challenged, he reminds himself that it took Thomas Edison more than 10,000 attempts to make a light bulb work.

For Martin, that notion equals valuable knowledge. Edison also learned more than 9,000 other ways that would not work.

Martin, an engineering technician at NASA Langley, considers his own challenges an invitation to action.

He works with a team developing a way to build aircraft parts and a concept for space using NASA Langley's Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3) technology.

When engineering any high-performance metal component, he can be found at the near exterior of the vacuum chamber, which houses the technology. Martin peruses through a circular window at a small beam of light in motion.

The light is from an electron beam that melts wire at temperatures around 2,000 degrees Farenheit with an electron beam gun while a computer-aided design model determines movement and adds layers. The result is a 3-D structural part that does not require a mold.

Essentially, Martin turns art into parts. But those parts require supervision and ingenuity. And because some parts involve trial and error, they also require persistence.

Once a Boy Scout, always a Boy Scout – at least in Martin's case. At a young age, he learned lifelong values in serving, mentoring and building character. And he picked up many skills along the way.

Through NASA partnerships, he passes on his EBF3 knowledge. And through his leadership within his nephew’s Boy Scout troop, he passes along lifelong values.

He and the troop went on a three-week camping trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. It involved hiking to an elevation of about 12,000 feet. They ventured through the high desert and up into tree lines, where they camped.

The troop he helps is the same troop he joined as a boy. Martin grew up in Poquoson and lives in the house his great-grandparents built.

From a young age, Martin remembers the Apollo launches. He remembers roaring jets flying over from Langley Air Force Base and coming to Building 1202 at NASA Langley, which used to be a solar house that the public could view. He recalls the visitors center and space rocks, capsules and Apollo suits on display.

While taking engineering courses at Thomas Nelson Community College, he heard about a co-op opportunity at NASA Langley and jumped on board. Then, he became an apprentice.

"I've really come a long way," Martin said.

His wife, Marianne, who works in a research library in Colonial Williamsburg, has been by his side. Together, they enjoy gardening and traveling.

Two years ago, Martin won a NASA Space Flight Awareness Award, one of the highest honors presented to agency employees for their dedication to quality work and flight safety.

With that award, came an invitation to witness STS-132 launch. He and Marianne traveled to Kennedy Space Center for what Martin decided was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he couldn’t miss out on.

Watching the launch, he was reminded that he contributed to that very moment and others like it.

It was – and still is – Martin's time to shine.

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