- Press Release
- Dec 5, 2022
African-American Engineer Conducts Science in Space
NASA engineer Lybrease Woodard orchestrates science
operations aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as if
she’s conducting a symphony. She leads a complex, talented
group of players and instruments, whose scientific findings are
music to so many ears here on Earth.
Woodard’s “podium,” however, is earthbound. As a NASA payload
operations director, she orchestrates ISS science activities
from the Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space
Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala.
“When I watch space crews carry out activities I helped plan, I
feel like I’m right there beside them, helping them
successfully complete the job,” Woodard said.
That achievement is important to Woodard, a Huntsville native
whose close-knit African-American family fostered her strong
work ethic. “They instilled in me a positive belief system that
I could accomplish great things,” she said.
After graduating in 1977 from Huntsville High School, where she
concentrated on math and science, Woodard signed up for MSFC’s
cooperative education program. The program introduces high
school graduates to the NASA workforce the summer prior to
their first semester in college.
“I was recommended for the program by my high school guidance
counselor, which speaks very highly of the important role
counselors play in identifying potential in our high school
kids,” Woodard said.
In 1981, Woodard, the youngest of four children, became the
first of her siblings to graduate from college. She received an
industrial engineering degree from the University of Alabama in
Tuscaloosa. Since then, she has continued her NASA career,
supporting numerous space crews who have performed hundreds of
experiments on Spacelab, a laboratory that carried out science
missions inside the Space Shuttle’s payload bay, and the ISS.
Today, Woodard leads a team of flight controllers responsible
for all science aboard the ISS, the most sophisticated, world-
class laboratory ever placed in orbit. She paved the way for
ISS science operations when she served as the lead payload
operations director for Expedition 2, from March to August
Expedition 2 was the second research mission on the ISS and the
first to use the Station’s Destiny laboratory. It also was the
first expedition with science operations controlled 24 hours a
day, seven days a week by the Payload Operations Center cadre
at MSFC. Woodard, a pioneer in NASA crew operations, helped
ensure the success of Expedition 2 by leading a team of more
than 60 flight controllers.
Woodard’s success led to her next assignment, a lead payload
operations director on Expedition 8, the current crew aboard
the ISS. During the expedition, the science team in space and
on the ground performs research across a variety of scientific
disciplines that will contribute to our understanding of the
human body in space, Earth’s environment, medicine,
manufacturing processes and other fields.
“I am blessed when I can make someone’s dreams come true,”
Woodard said. “If I can make this happen for the scientists by
implementing their desires, then I consider myself a success;
and, if I can add to the ISS crew’s probability for success by
dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, then it has been a good
Media organizations interested in interviewing Woodard should
contact Betty Humphrey at MSFC’s Office of Public Affairs at