For release: 06/30/04
Release #: 04-176
Dr. Ann Whitaker, director of the Science Directorate at Marshall Center recently received the 2003-2004 Hermann Oberth Award from the Alabama-Mississippi Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.Photo: Whitaker (NASA/MSFC)
Dr. Ann Whitaker, director of the Science Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., recently received the 2003-2004 Hermann Oberth Award from the Alabama-Mississippi Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
The award recognizes outstanding individual scientific achievement in the fields of astronautics and space sciences, as well as the recipient's efforts in promoting and advancing aeronautical sciences. First presented in 1959, the Institute's most prestigious award is named for German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth, considered the "father of space travel."
The AIAA chapter, part of the nation's largest society devoted to the advancement of aviation, space and defense, honored Whitaker — a Plainville, Ga., native — at its 52nd annual awards dinner in Huntsville.
Whitaker, a pioneer in developing methods for predicting the performance of materials in the space environment, began her NASA career in 1963, joining the Marshall Center as a physicist in the former Propulsion and Vehicle Engineering Laboratory.
Her early career included contributions to the Saturn program that launched Americans to the Moon, to the Space Shuttle and to the Long Duration Exposure Facility Experiments — a series of flight experiments to characterize environmental effects on materials in space. Information gleaned from Whitaker's early research continues to support material selection for present-day space systems, including the International Space Station.
Whitaker became chief of Marshall 's Physical Sciences Branch in 1977, chief of the Engineering Physics Division in 1984, and chief of the Project and Environmental Engineering Division in 1993.
In 1995, she was selected for the Senior Executive Service, the personnel system that covers most of the top managerial, supervisory and policy positions in the executive branch of the federal government. She held key leadership positions within Marshall's Science and Engineering Directorate including deputy director of the Space Sciences Laboratory and director of the Materials, Processes and Manufacturing Department.
Whitaker, who became director of the Science Directorate in 2001, is responsible for materials and biotechnology microgravity science, Earth and Space Science, and Advanced Optics Manufacturing Technology.
She has a bachelor's degree in physics from Berry College in Rome, Ga.; a master's degree in physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville; and a doctorate in materials engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.
Whitaker has received numerous awards during her career, including NASA's Exceptional Service Medal, the Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, the NASA Leadership Medal, the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Rank of Meritorious Executive. She was named an AIAA fellow in 1992. She is the author or co-author of 70 publications.She and her husband, John, are the parents of one daughter, Leann.
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