Women’s History Month

During the month of March, NASA celebrates and pays tribute to the many women who have played an essential role in shaping the history of the  Agency. From astronauts to specialists in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as professionals in communications, human resources, and more, women are helping NASA fulfill its mission to explore our universe for the benefit of all.  Join the celebration by watching the event here.

As NASA technology frequently spins off into commercial products and services, it is not surprising that women often play a role in ensuring that the advancements made to power aerospace missions come back down to Earth in the form of practical benefits. Recent examples of women playing a key role in technology transfers include:

Anne St. Clair, colorless polyimides (Spinoff 2012)

While Anne St. Clair (picture to right, top) worked on high performance polyimides at Langley Research Center, she noticed that some of the films were nearly colorless. She suspected these films would be useful in space, and after characterizing them, confirmed her suspicion. The polyimides became known as LaRC-CP1 and LaRC-CP2, and were licensed by a private company based in Huntsville, Alabama. Today, NeXolve Corporation is using St. Clair’s NASA-derived thin films to construct the five-layer sunshields for the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as provides products for telescopes and electronics. Read the full story here. 

Lauren Underwood, photocatalytic coatings (Spinoff 2012)

Investigating the effectiveness of photocatalytic materials for keeping Stennis Space Center’s buildings free of grime, Lauren Underwood, a senior research scientist at Stennis, turned to a solution created by PURETi Inc. of New York City. Underwood applied PURETi’s solution to building surfaces and monitored any changes through standard photography and remote sensing technology. The testing proved successful, and NASA and the company now share a Dual Use Technology partnership. PURETi’s coatings keep surfaces clean and purify surrounding air, eliminating pollution, odors, and microbes. Read the full story here.

Miria Finckenor, single event functional interrupt technology (Spinoff 2011)

Space radiation can affect the operation of electronics throughout the solar system. “It’s hard to obtain any data when you have to constantly reboot and start over,” says Miria Finckenor, a physicist at Marshall Space Flight Center. To develop controller technology to mitigate the effects of space radiation, Marshall partnered with San Diego-based Space Micro Inc., through the SBIR program. The resulting technology was a success, and is now embedded in the company’s series of high-performance, radiation-hardened computers for space, as well as selected to use with medical equipment computers on the International Space Station. Read the full story here.

Shannon Melton, ventilator technology (Spinoff 2011)

When it comes to providing adequate critical care, “NASA and the military have very similar operational challenges,” says Shannon Melton of NASA contractor Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering. Melton works within Johnson Space Center’s Space Medicine Division. Drawing on the expertise of Johnson Space Center space medicine experts like Melton, under the auspices of a Space Act Agreement, Impact Instrumentation Inc. of West Caldwell, New Jersey, made advances in medical ventilator technology (picture to right, third down) now incorporated into emergency medical solutions for soldiers and civilians around the world. Read the full story here.

These scientists and researchers, among many others at the Agency, have shown that there are numerous opportunities at NASA to realize one’s dreams, to advance the goals of the Nation’s space program, and to help share spinoff benefits with all of society.

To view past celebrations of Women’s History Month, click here.


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