Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Woman Represents NASA For #CometLanding Mission By The European Space Agency

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Claudia Alexander is the project scientist overseeing NASA's support role in the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission that just landed a craft on a speeding comet. She oversees her role from the view deck of mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

Claudia Alexander was 40 when she was brought on as project scientist on the Rosetta mission in 2000. NASA "wanted someone who could be with the project all the way through," she said.

As project scientist on Rosetta, Claudia Alexander, now 55, oversees NASA's contribution to the mission. That includes three instruments on the orbiter, as well as tracking and navigation support from the agency's Deep Space Network here on Earth.

She also acts as a kind of diplomat between the two agencies. It has, at times, been a tricky position. NASA isn't used to playing a supporting role on such high-profile missions.

"We do things a certain way," she said. "And when you look at someone else doing it their way and not our way, there is a tendency to say, 'Well, that will never work.'"

Being an African American woman has helped scientist Claudia Alexander act as a liaison between NASA and the ESA, she says. "I'm used to walking between two different cultures."

Rosetta may be the European Space Agency's boldest mission yet: to tag along with the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet as it passes by the sun, observing it from the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander.

"I really want people to understand that these things are difficult to do," Alexander said. "So if it happens, and we are all jumping up and down, it's because we really have that feeling like — how did this get pulled off?"

Read more - LA Times
Photo Credit - Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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