a manager for NASA's Space Product Development Program, Jeneene
Sams delivers the benefits of space research to people on Earth.|
Space Flight Center,
cars, other futuristic products all in a day's work for NASA Space
-- Whether it’s working on International Space Station experiments
that may lead to hydrogen-powered, pollution-free cars, or tutoring
math and science students, Jeneene Sams brings the benefits of space
back to people on Earth.
market segment manager within NASA’s Space Product Development
Program, I make it easier for businesses to perform experiments
in space,” said Sams, a 16-year veteran of the space program
at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
are willing to pay to do experiments in space because the results
can improve their products and ultimately peoples’ lives on
Earth,” she said.
with two of NASA’s 15 Commercial Space Centers -- centers across
the country that help companies conduct space research.
One -- the
Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern
University in Boston, Mass. -- has cranked up its furnace on the
Space Station three times this year and grown three batches of zeolite
crystals. These crystals have the potential to reduce the cost of
petroleum and store new types of fuels like hydrogen, which is abundant
astronauts inserted the zeolite samples into the furnace, and then
scientists on the ground started the furnace. The Space Shuttle
brought back to Earth the first batch of crystals in May. Scientists
at the Boston center are analyzing the crystals to see if they are
bigger and of higher quality, which will make it easier for scientists
to learn more about zeolite structures and then tailor them for
The third batch
of crystals just finished cooking inside the Space Station furnace
and was returned to Earth by Space Shuttle Endeavour earlier this
month. That Shuttle mission delivered a new batch of samples to
the Station for processing.
in the control room listening to the scientist talk to the Space
Station crew as they started processing the zeolites,” said
Sams. “It was rewarding to be a part of this moment after all
the frenzy of preparing the furnace and the samples for flight.
I felt a real connection to the Station and the astronauts doing
Sams also works
with the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space
at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Scientists at this NASA
Commercial Space Center have a partnership with two companies to
test a new fire-fighting system that battles blazes with a fine
mist, rather than environmentally harmful chemicals. Astronauts
are scheduled to test the fire-fighting system later this year on
the STS-107 mission of Space Shuttle Columbia to the Space Station
-- a flight dedicated to space research.
experiments that Sams has been sponsoring for flights this year
benefit from gathering data in microgravity -- the near-weightless
environment created as the Station and Shuttle orbit Earth. Prior
research with zeolite crystals indicates that better crystals can
be grown in microgravity. Combustion is also a process that is easier
to study when gravity doesn’t interfere. That is why companies
want to test their new fire-fighting system in space.
companies are willing to invest in space experiments because it
is the best place for them to get the data they need to produce
the best products,” said Sams. “When my two young children
are old enough to drive, they may be hopping into cars fueled by
hydrogen stored in zeolites. Hydrogen is plentiful, unlike gasoline,
and it doesn’t pollute. So I can say I played a role in research
that helped make the world a better place for my children.”
Howard Sams, a retired accountant in the Marshall Center’s
finance department, introduced his daughter to NASA technology at
an early age and encouraged her to pursue a technical career.
When she was
young, her father and stepmother, Alice, who is a contract specialist
at Marshall supporting the Space Transportation Directorate, sometimes
took her to work with them.
the cool things going on at Marshall, and thought NASA could help
me make a difference in the world,” said Sams.
Sams made frequent
visits to see her father in Huntsville, but she lived in Birmingham,
Ala., with her mother, Madalyn Rucker and her extended family, including
her grandparents, Lena and Isaac Brown. She graduated from John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham and earned a bachelor’s
in mathematics and a minor in computer science from the University
of Alabama at Birmingham in 1985.
She later earned
a master’s in management from the Florida Institute of Technology,
attending classes at its Huntsville campus.
In 1986, she
joined the Marshall Center as a materials engineer in the Materials,
Processes and Manufacturing Department. She helped develop a materials
and processes database. Today, this database is still used by NASA
materials engineers who design spacecraft -- and even by engineers
who design other Earth-based products.
In 1994, NASA
selected Sams to participate in the Program Control Development
Program -- a NASA effort to train technical employees to be managers
and expose them to operations at NASA centers
Sams also makes
serving the community part of her life. She’s a volunteer for
projects sponsored by Links Inc., a national organization of African-American
professional women with a local chapter in Huntsville. The organization
supports and conducts charitable and educational activities beneficial
to communities. For example, Sams gives her time to tutor Huntsville
She has participated
in NASA programs that encourage students to pursue careers in science
and technology at Alabama universities. She was the Marshall Center
team coordinator for the North Alabama Sickle Cell Walk-A-Thon,
and she served as Marshall Center’s executive representative
for the 2001 Tennessee Valley Combined Federal Campaign -- an annual
giving campaign that supports community agencies.
on the International Space Station to serving the community, Sams
believes it’s important to pursue endeavors that make a difference
in the lives of others.
and photos for this story were provided by Marshall Space Flight