Who's Who at NASA

Butler Hine, Project Manager, LADEE, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Dr. Butler Hine is the project manager of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. The vehicle, successfully launched in September, will characterize the dust environment of the moon. NASA Tech Briefs: What is the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft? Dr. Butler Hine: It’s a small robotic orbiter. We launched on September 6 on a Minotaur V rocket. We’re currently in phasing loops around the Earth. We’re on our way to the moon, and once we get there, we’re going to check out our science instruments and do an optical laser-com experiment. We’ll drop down into a very low orbit and do our science missions.

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Dr. Leslie Bebout, Microbial Ecologist, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Dr. Leslie Bebout works as a microbial ecologist in the Exobiology Branch at NASA’s Moffett Field, CA-based Ames Research Center. She and her colleagues study the complexities of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen cycling in early Earth and Mars analog microbial systems. They concurrently are using this systems biology approach to work with engineers to design systems geared to optimize the use of water, light and nutrient resources relevant both to the development of new green technologies and space exploration capabilities. NASA Tech Briefs: What does a microbial ecologist do? Dr. Leslie Bebout: We started studying microbes because they are the earliest forms of life on planet Earth. They’re also what we’re looking for, either remnants of cells themselves or indicators that they were there on Mars. We also look at gases in the atmospheres of far distant planets to see if we get indications of life processes there. That’s the historical basis for study of microbiology and microbial ecology at NASA.

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Garry Lyles, Chief Engineer, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL

Garry Lyles is Chief Engineer for the Space Launch System Program office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. In 2012, the National Space Club named Lyles the Astronautics Engineer of the Year in honor of his decades of advancing the nation’s human spaceflight systems. NASA Tech Briefs: What is the Space Launch System? Garry Lyles: It’s the heavy launch system that is designed to take humans and cargo beyond lower Earth orbit. It is the next big capability with the Orion MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle). The Space Launch System is being designed as an evolvable technology. It’s starting out with capability of [carrying] 70 metric tons to lower Earth orbit, which is kind of a reference point for us. It is a drop-off point that allows us to design against a certain set of requirements. Then we have an evolved capability to greater than 100 metric tons, and then greater than 130 metric tons for the future long-term missions and missions that require capability that we’ve really never had before: the capability to send humans to Mars.

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Chuck Taylor, Principal Investigator, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

Chuck Taylor is principal investigator of in-space propulsion and space power generation within the Game Changing Development Program. He is responsible for a portfolio of technologies, including large-scale solar electric propulsion systems. NASA Tech Briefs: What is solar electric propulsion (SEP)? Chuck Taylor: Solar Electric Propulsion is a form of spacecraft propulsion used in space. It relies on the acceleration of ions using electricity generated by solar arrays instead of the chemical energy stored in the propellant itself. It is attractive because by using the Sun’s energy in the process we can bring considerably less propellant mass into orbit; this reduces our launch mass and cost. An SEP system is usually considered to consist of the large arrays that generate electric power, the power processing units or PPUs that convert this power, and the thruster which uses the electric power to ionize the inert propellant and accelerate it out of the spacecraft to generate thrust.

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Lora Koenig, Glaciologist, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Dr. Lora Koenig, an expert in remote sensing of ice sheets and snow, provided scientific input for the design of the Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or GROVER. The autonomous vehicle will rove through Summit, Greenland and monitor how much snow falls over the country’s ice sheets.

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Huy Tran, Deputy Director, Aeronautics Directorate, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Huy Tran is the Deputy Director of the Aeronautics Directorate that performs research in air traffic management, advanced aircraft design, and thermal protection. Tran has made significant contributions to flight hardware on several NASA missions and was lead inventor of the Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA), an innovative heat shield material. NASA Tech Briefs: What is a typical day for you? Huy Tran: Because I’m up at the management level, my typical day will start with meetings in the morning at the executive level. We talk tactical issues concerning budget and latest events. Eventually that kind of information needs to be flowed down to our divisions and their programs and projects. I normally attend programmatic telecoms, talking with NASA Headquarters and program directors in the research areas that we work on to address any issues, concerns, or strategic planning that we have for our program and projects. Then, I also meet with the project managers, technical leads, and line management to ensure that we execute the projects that were assigned to us, and ensure that we have technical excellence in our research in air traffic management or in software.

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Rob Mueller, Lead Senior Technologist, Kennedy Space Center, FL

Rob Mueller is the Lead Senior Technologist for the RASSOR (Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot) project, as well as all Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Human Robotics Systems. The RASSOR mining robot will collect soil (known as regolith) on the moon or Mars so it can be processed into rocket propellants, breathable air, water, and other consumable commodities as well as manufacturing and construction materials feed stocks.

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