NASA Marshall Center's Charles Darby Chronicles History at Home, Lives History at Work
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News Release: 05-098
To his family, Charles Darby is known as the historian, photographing family events as a hobby. But during 22 years at NASA, he has played his own role in history – leaving his engineering mark on research facilities destined for space.
Today, Darby is the manager of the Payload and Facility Systems Engineering and Integration Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. His focus is the International Space Station -- the orbiting research complex that NASA and 15 other nations are building some 200 miles above Earth.
Darby leads the team that ensures research equipment and facilities work within the framework of the Space Station's specifications and physical dimensions. This can be as simple as verifying research equipment will fit in its designated space, or as complicated as ensuring an instrument's electrical and cooling requirements don't consume more than their allocated Space Station resources.
He previously led the team that developed and built the First Materials Science Research Rack, the Space Station's primary facility for materials science investigations. Materials science uses the laws of physics to understand how physical influences -- such as the near-weightless environment of space -- influence the behavior of materials. A collaborative activity with the European Space Agency is scheduled for launch in 2008 aboard the Space Shuttle.
"I cannot remember what triggered my interest in engineering, but I've wanted to be an engineer since I was in middle school," says Darby. "And I followed through on it, getting to work with some of the newest innovations in space exploration."
Another small piece of history confirms that fact. A native of Opelika, Ala., Darby looks back at his 1978 senior yearbook from Beauregard High School where he noted he wanted to become an electrical engineer.
This led to a 1982 bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and in 1990, a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
He joined NASA's Marshall Center in 1983. His early assignments included providing engineering support for systems aboard the Space Shuttle and for Spacelab science missions carried to space within the Space Shuttle's cargo bay. Developed by the European Space Agency, Spacelab was the focal point for experiments conducted from 1982 through 1998 by Americans in space.
At NASA, Darby has earned nearly two-dozen awards. Most recently, he earned a 2004 Certificate of Appreciation for exemplary leadership of the First Materials Science Research Rack Team, a 2004 Special Service Award for leadership in developing the Materials Science Research Facility, and a 2003 Special Service Award for outstanding project management in developing the Materials Science Research Rack payload.
Darby and his wife, the former Stephania Pierce of Gadsden, Ala., and their three children Brianna, Jared and Deidre, reside in Huntsville. His parents, Lonnie and Era Darby, are still residents of Opelika.
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