Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Scientist representative fills many shoes for Station experimenters
Tate is the first African-American woman to support International
Space Station science activities as a liaison between the lead
increment scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
and the payload operations team at NASA's Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala.|
-- Judy Marie Tate has so many shoes that if she could walk to the
International Space Station, 240 miles up, she seemingly could swap
out her footwear every mile along the way. Last November, Tate took
a big step, packing up her shoes and moving away from her family
and friends in Houston to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., to coordinate Space Station activities with scientists
and ground teams.
She laughed, saying her
passion for shoes is "genetically" inherited from her
mother, as is her work ethic. "My mother always told me that
anything you do is a direct reflection of the person you are,"
Tate said. "I hope that what I'm doing now shows my love of
science and finding out new things. That's why I'm always looking
to do my best in helping carry out the science mission on the Space
Tate is the
first African-American woman to support Space Station science activities
as a lead increment scientist representative, called a "LIS
rep," acting as the liaison between the lead increment scientist
at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Payload Operations
and Integration Center at Marshall that plans Space Station science
Although her new job
kept her from home and Mom's gumbo last Christmas, Tate is happy
she volunteered for her yearlong adventure. "I've always liked
to do things that weren't easy," Tate recalled. "I loved
to read as a kid, and science challenged me. If others thought it
was hard, I wanted to do it."
Her mother, Julia Cash,
who now lives outside Houston in Hitchcock, raised Tate and her
older brothers James and Troy. She graduated from LaMarque High
School, just south of Houston. With the entire family pitching in
to help with the finances and moral support, Tate went on to become
the first person in her family to graduate from college.
"I was taught that
I could accomplish anything I wanted to if I worked hard, no matter
what people thought of me," said Tate. "I have stuttered
since I was able to talk, hence most people assumed I could not
answer. Because of this, I have always had to prove myself when
doing any job. The nurturing environment I was raised in taught
me not to let my stuttering hinder my ability to succeed."
with a bachelor's degree in biology from Southwest Texas State University
in San Marcos, Tate became a research assistant at the University
of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She studied the deficient
immune systems of premature babies to fight bacterial and fungal
infections. Tate enjoyed the research, and contributed to several
professional articles about the research. But when the grant money
ran out, Tate still wanted to work in research, and that's when
she found herself working with the most sophisticated laboratory
ever built -- the International Space Station.
By 2000, Tate
had completed her master's degree in biology from the University
of Houston-Clear Lake, and signed on with the Lockheed Martin Corporation,
a NASA contractor. At NASA's Johnson Space Center, Tate planned
the science experiments and cargo, called payloads that would eventually
travel to the Space Station. But in November 2002, Tate was given
the opportunity to work with the science research as it is being
conducted on the Station. The only catch: the job required relocating
this was a great opportunity for me to expand my science knowledge
and allow me to work in a different environment," said Tate.
So she moved to Huntsville
to a two-bedroom apartment -- to make room for all of her shoes,
which she keeps in original boxes, so she'll remember where she
bought them, or who gave them to her.
Working at the Payload
Operations Center -- the command post at the Marshall Center for
all science activities aboard the Space Station -- Tate determines
what experiments are given priority when issues arise, and makes
sure all science research is completed. "The environment here
is always changing," Tate said. "Every day when I come
to work there are new situations, and there is always something
different going on. Nothing is routine."
Although she would some
day like to have an experiment of her own on the Space Station,
she has no desire to go into space to conduct them herself.
"I'm a perfectionist,
but I'm willing to let someone else 'fill my shoes' as a scientist
and conduct experiments in space for me," she said. "I'd
be happy just to watch the pictures of my experiment from down here
photos for this story were provided by Marshall Space Flight Center.