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Center Snapshot - Eddie Carden
Eddie Carden.
Image above: Eddie Carden, associate branch head, Metals Applications Technology Branch, relishes in the near-completion of the PA-1 crew module simulator just a few weeks before delivery. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

The sign on the cabinet door above Eddie Carden's head reads "Retirement: Because you've given so much of yourself to the company that you don't have anything left that we can use."

He laughs when he refers to it, but Carden also talks about riding his bicycle on the Virginia Creeper Trail and about building a "man space" garage, things that can be done when the job is done. But "I've been talking about building it for 30 years," he says, laughing.

For all of his talk about retirement, Carden likes the role he and others in the Materials Applications Technology Branch have in the Exploration program that has its goal of putting a crew of astronauts on the moon by 2020.

"It's an opportunity to get a glimpse into the future," says Carden, who is the assistant branch head and the facility safety head. "We've told the guys that they are a part of history."

Even before coming to NASA Langley in 1980, he was enamored with the idea of humans in space. "I used to work third shift at the (now Northrop Grumman) shipyard, and they would have most of the space launches in the daytime," he says. "I would stay up to see them. I can still remember seeing the tower fall away and the rocket launching."

He particularly remembers Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon.

"I got my son up to see that," Carden says. "He was 2 1⁄2 then."

With that vivid in his memory, he relished the idea of working on the pad abort crew module that will be used in a flight test late in the fall. It's the sort of thrill, he admits, that would make it difficult to retire.

So, too, would coming to a job and a place he particularly enjoys.

"This is kind of like working on a college campus," Carden says. "Look around you. Look at the buildings and the grounds. There aren't many places like this.

"And when people come to you, you don't know if they're a PhD or a technician."

He cites the work of Wayne Sawyer, who came to Carden one day with a pin that needed drilling.

"He said, 'If this works, I'm going to want you to drill a dozen of them,' " Carden says.

After doing the drilling, Carden gave the pin to Sawyer. "He had a license place on his truck that said, 'Tennesee farmer,' " Carden remembered. "Now, I'm a Tennessee hillbilly (from Elizabethton), and I was curious. So I said, 'Do you mind if I ask you what this is for?'

"He said it was a pin for a plow hitch."

Apparently, wires that run through the holes in the pin would form an antenna to a satellite that would help farmers with their planting.

"They would learn which parts of their land were so compacted that they needed more seed for bounty, and which would need less," Carden said. "NASA's sure involved in a lot of things."

And now, again, going to space.

"I missed the 'space race,' " Carden says. "I wasn't here when the space shuttle started up. I like being here now."

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Denise Adams
The Researcher News