Laurie Grindle

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I grew up in Los Angeles with my parents and brother. My father earned his private pilot’s license the year I was born, so I’ve always been around airplanes and wanted to be in a field that allowed me to work with them. I have always been passionate about math and science. When I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut. Since it is such a competitive field, however, I was realistic about my chances and so was determined to find an exciting career at NASA that I loved whether or not I was selected to be an astronaut.

I began my NASA career by working as a student intern in the Aerodynamics Branch at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. I enjoyed my experience in aerodynamics so much that I decided to work in that field. I remained in the aerodynamics branch for 12 years until I became a Project Manager; the position I currently hold.

During my 17 years at NASA Armstrong, I have worked on several projects including: the F-18 SRA ALADIN, F-16XL Supersonic Laminar Flow Control, Space Shuttle, X-43A, and the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Orion programs. Each of these has given me new and unique experiences. The X-43A project was a very emotional one. I joined the project in 1997 during the buildup phase to first flight in 2001. The first flight experienced a failure that led to a nine-month mishap investigation followed by a two-year recovery effort. We learned a lot from the failure and, during the mishap investigation and recovery effort, were able to make improvements that allowed us to have extremely successful second and third flights. Although the failure on the first flight was very sad, it was on this project I learned the meaning of the phrase often used in flight research, “you can learn more from failure than success.” It was incredible to be part of a team that had persevered beyond a devastating failure to go on and make history. The X-43A set the Guinness World Record for “the fastest air-breathing”aircraft in March 2004 before it broke its own record in November 2004 with its third and final flight.

I’ve definitely found the exciting career I dreamed of working at NASA Armstrong as an Engineer and a Project Manager. I even managed to honor my desire to work with airplanes since NASA Armstrong is a premier installation for aeronautical flight research. My career at NASA has been hugely rewarding and has given me some amazing opportunities that I never would have imagined for myself.

Though both my parents and my brother are lawyers and don’t always understand what I’m working on, my family has always been very supportive. Throughout my life, they have encouraged me to have dreams and to pursue them. At a very young age I set some high goals for myself. Often people questioned my ability to achieve them, but I never let that stop me. One thing I’ve learned is that you should never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something; you are your only obstacle!

Biography

As an engineer and a project manager working in aircraft flight research, Laurie Grindle is familiar with the saying: “You can learn more from failure than success.” But, as the only scientist to emerge from a family of lawyers, she has never let failures stop her; in fact, as she writes: “One thing I’ve learned is that you should never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something; you are your only obstacle!” In her career at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Ms. Grindle has overcome many obstacles in the many projects on which she has worked, but none has evoked a more powerful emotional response in her than the X-43A hypersonic project – a project that at first failed but eventually, through the perseverance of the X-43A team, rose phoenix-like to set the Guinness World Record for “the fastest air-breathing aircraft” in March 2004 before it broke its own record in November 2004 on its third and final flight. Ms. Grindle is not only proud of the successful flights of the X-43A, but also of having followed in her father’s footsteps to also earn a private pilot’s license and then go on to earn an Instrument Rating. Ms. Grindle, who holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from the University of California at Davis and a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from California State University at Fresno, has always set her sights high – and, in her view, no sight is higher than that she has found at NASA. For Ms. Grindle her NASA career has been “hugely rewarding” and a success in its own right.