Press Release

‘Sister Act’ from Rocket City Follows Dreams to Support International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
June 25, 2003
Filed under ,

When Gloria Cade Reiswig was single-handedly raising her two daughters in
the 1960s, she didn’t know she was contributing to the future exploration of
space.

Rita Sutton and Roxanna Sherwin grew up along with America’s space program,
which was just beginning at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in their
hometown of Huntsville, Ala.

“When I was a kid, my mother took us to visit the space museum with the
rocket displays, pictures and history of Redstone Arsenal,” Sutton said.
“She made sure my sister and I watched when Americans landed on the Moon.
When I saw Neil Armstrong take those first steps, I knew something special
was happening and that Huntsville would be a big part of that history.”

And so did her big sister, Roxanna.

“Our mother encouraged our curiosity, so it was only natural that we wanted
to be part of the greatest exploration of the 20th century,” said Roxanna.
“We know Mother is proud that we are now supporting research on the
International Space Station that will help not only improve astronaut health
in space but also will provide fundamental knowledge that improves medical
treatments on Earth.”

Both sisters are living their dream by working with the International Space
Station – the orbiting laboratory being built by NASA and 15 international
partner nations. Rita and Roxanna work in NASA’s Payload Operations Center –
the command post at the Marshall Center for all science activities onboard
the Space Station.
To this day, the sisters claim “dual citizenship” in Huntsville, and in the
small Alabama town of Opp, just south of Montgomery, where they spent their
early childhood. In 1964, their mother decided to take her daughters to
Huntsville for a better job with RCA and provide the girls with more
opportunities. The sisters would return to Opp each summer to spend time
with their grandparents, James and Wilma Cade.

“Being from a small town gives you certain perspectives and advantages. Opp
is that sleepy kind of town that is the complete opposite of Huntsville,”
Rita recalled. “Opp offered security and Huntsville offered excitement, to
young girls anyway. That bouncing back and forth gave you the best of both
worlds.”

They both went on to graduate from Butler High School in Huntsville, and
Athens State College in Athens, Ala. — Rita with a bachelor’s degree in
psychology and history, Roxanna with a bachelor’s degree in business
management.

Although they took different paths in getting to NASA, the “sister act” is
now on the same “stage,” working for the NASA support contractor Teledyne
Brown Engineering. Rita develops procedures designed to help the Station
crew operate a payload experiment and works on the console support team
sending science experiment procedures to the astronauts and cosmonauts.
Roxanna is the manager for the Operations and Integration team that supports
Payload Operations Directors — the payload version of a Space Shuttle
Flight Director.

Roxanna had moved to Houston, Texas, in 1978 to work with the Space Shuttle
program at Johnson Space Center after getting her career started as a
cooperative education student in mechanical engineering for the Army at the
Redstone Arsenal. Rita got a later start, choosing first to home-school her
three daughters before joining the space program in January 2000.

But don’t think just because Rita’s job is focused on the future and the
unknown, she isn’t interested in preserving the past. In fact, she spends
her spare time quilting, crocheting and making her own fishing rods — not
to mention enjoying life with her husband, Charles.

When she’s not helping to support crews in space, Roxanna works as a hospice
volunteer, helping families cope with end-of-life issues. This is near to
her heart, since her mother suffers from pulmonary fibrosis — a progressive
lung disease — and is under hospice care.

“Contributing is very important to our mother, and is a lesson we took to
heart,” Roxanna said. “Contributing to our family, our community and our
society have always been in our background. You could look at our jobs as a
method of contributing. The information being gathered from research on the
Station is for us, for our families.”

This family tradition doesn’t stop at the sisters, though. It continues on
with Roxanna’s daughter Chrissy, and son-in-law, Scott Stinson, who both
work at the Johnson Space Center. Chrissy supports the Astronaut office and
Scott works to get all of the equipment required up to the Station. Rita’s
son-in-law, Scott Reeves, a hardware engineer at the Marshall Center,
ensures that the Space Station Ground Systems are reliably designed,
integrated, and collecting data.

Gloria Reiswig’s dedication to family and education is even reflected in
this second generation. Each grandchild has been told from childhood that
an education is a privilege not a right, and that it must be earned and
cherished.

Both sisters take pride in the way their mother has contributed to the space
industry by directing her side of the family tree to grow toward the Sun —
and reach for the stars.

SpaceRef staff editor.