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Dr. Alice K. (Joyce) Neighbors

Dr. Alice K. (Joyce) Neighbors
During the Apollo era, Dr. Alice K. (Joyce) Neighbors was part of the technical staff in the Guidance and Control Division of Marshall’s Astrionics Laboratory.

Born in Newell, Alabama, Dr. Joyce K. Neighbors graduated from Randolph County High School in Wedowee, Alabama. Neighbors earned a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics from Auburn University and a master’s of science degree in engineering from the University of Alabama. In 1977, she earned a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics from the University of Alabama where she completed a dissertation entitled “Dynamic Response of a Geometrically Nonlinear Composite Elastic/Viscoelastic Cylinder.” At the time, Neighbors became one of only three women at the center who held doctorate degrees.

Prior to arriving at Redstone Arsenal in 1956, Neighbors worked as an engineering aid with ARO, Inc. at the Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Once with the Army at Redstone, Neighbors led a team to calculate the flight trajectory of the Jupiter C vehicle which launched America’s first satellite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958. Those calculations were made to determine the highest point of the flight arch – a point at which commands would be given to ignite the upper-stage engines. Neighbors was allowed to sign the mission chart along with Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, but only with her initials and last name. Neighbors later remembered this was done because, in a male dominated profession, it was believed that having a woman’s name on the document would make it “less authentic.”

During the Apollo era, Neighbors was part of the technical staff in the Guidance and Control Division of Marshall’s Astrionics Laboratory. Afterwards, Neighbors spent much of the early 1970s working on the Skylab program and later as a senior system engineer for the High Energy Astronomical Observatory Project during which time she was responsible for the thermal, structural and dynamic design of the three observatories. Following a period as chief engineer for the Atmospheric Cloud Physics Laboratory Neighbors became Marshall’s program manager for Gravity Probe B, a test of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity which launched on April 20, 2004.

This photo of Dr. Joyce Neighbors was taken in December 1976.

Image credit: NASA