Press Release

NASA Engineer Sits In Driver’s Seat of Space Shuttle Discovery

By SpaceRef Editor
April 7, 2004
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Ever since the third grade, Stephanie Stilson knew she
would one-day work for NASA. Little did Stilson imagine she
would be responsible for a Space Shuttle.

“My father took me to visit the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in
Florida when I was nine,” Stilson said. “I told him then that
when I grew up, I was going to work for NASA. My father loves
to tell that story,” she added.

Stilson is the Space Shuttle Discovery vehicle manager at
KSC, NASA’s primary space launch facility. She oversees all
activities associated with planning, scheduling and preparing
the Discovery orbiter for space. Before every launch, she is
the one to answer the all-important question, “Is it ready to

Discovery is scheduled to be the orbiter that returns NASA’s
Space Shuttle fleet to safe flight following the Shuttle
Columbia accident. Discovery will carry the STS-114 crew to
the International Space Station. The launch planning window
for the mission opens in March 2005. It may seem a daunting
responsibility, but Stilson takes pride in knowing the major
role she plays in space exploration.

Stilson works with NASA engineers, technicians and
contractors as KSC’s representative for Shuttle processing
operations. She is NASA’s chief point of contact on periodic
maintenance, upgrades, modifications and full systems testing
to ensure Discovery is safe for flight.

“There is so much pride associated with NASA, and I am
thrilled to be a part of such a well-respected government
organization,” Stilson said. “We are all contributing to our
country’s history and to our continued exploration of space,”
she said.

Stilson began her career with NASA in 1989 as a cooperative
education student, while double majoring in computer and
electrical engineering at North Carolina State University in
Raleigh, N.C.

In 1995, she began working as an electrical and data systems
engineer on Spacelab, the laboratory that carried out science
missions inside the Space Shuttle’s payload bay. She made
sure all the equipment, research facilities and experiments
going up could communicate with the ground systems. Her
expertise led to her assignment as director for multi-element
integration testing on the International Space Station.
Stilson was the first woman at NASA to ensure International
Space Station modules and components were compatible on the
ground and in space.

In 2001, Stilson was offered the opportunity to become the
vehicle manager for Discovery. Since then, she has seen “her”
Shuttle fly twice.

“The best part about that is when we get to talk to crew
members’ families,” Stilson said. “As soon as Discovery has
launched, we let them know how excited we are to be a part of
their family now. That’s really neat for me,” she added.

She has been rewarded by her NASA colleagues with numerous
Group Achievement Awards and a Certificate of Commendation
for work on Space Station integration testing.

She is working on a master’s degree in engineering management
at the University of Florida in Gainesville. When she’s not
busy with her own schoolwork, she can likely be found at her
local elementary school, where she often shares her
experiences working with the Shuttle.

“It is very rewarding to feel like you’re helping others
understand what we do at NASA,” Stilson said. “I just hope I
can spark students’ interest in learning more about space
exploration,” she said.

Media interested in interviewing Stilson should contact Tracy
Young, KSC Public Affairs at: 321/867-2468.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the
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SpaceRef staff editor.