Shamim Rahman is NASA's Chief Engineer for the Propulsion Test
Directorate at Stennis Space Center.|
Stennis Space Center, Miss.
is a fixture in Dr. Rahman's life
NASA has touched
Dr. Shamim Rahman's life for about as long as he can remember – or at least as far back as 1969,
when he was glued to the television watching Neil Armstrong step
onto the lunar surface. "That's when I decided to join whoever
went to the Moon," he said. "At the time I could barely
Now he does
a lot more than spell, since he's NASA's Chief Engineer for the
Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis Space Center. He provides
technical oversight for one-of-a-kind national test facilities collectively
valued at over $2 billion, for a variety of research and development
test projects for next-generation rocket engines.
Born in 1963
in Jamshedpur, India, Rahman was always fascinated by flight, visiting
airports just to watch takeoffs and landings. After he completed elementary school
in Bahrain (a Persian Gulf island between Qatar and Saudi Arabia) and high school in India,
his father sent him to the U.S., where, in 1979, he enrolled at Texas A&M University and experienced
another turning point in his life.
surprised that he could major in aerospace engineering, he began
working with Rockwell International Corp. through a co-operative
student program between NASA Johnson Space Center and A&M. In 1981, the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, launched. "That
was the beginning of my direct involvement with the space program,"
he said. "Apollo got me excited about space flight, but STS
was the motivation." STS stands for Space Transportation System,
which includes all Space Shuttle components, such as the orbiter,
external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters.
A year later,
he met a scientist widely heralded as one of the original founding
fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics, Hermann Oberth. The two met when Rahman
was doing research with a professor who nominated him to attend
an international astronautics conference in Budapest, Hungary, where
students were presenting papers. Oberth was at the conference.
One of Rahman's most prized possessions is a picture of him meeting
Oberth at the conference. Another is a signed copy of Oberth's book (in German), "The
Rocket into Planetary Space," published in 1923. In the 1930s, Oberth took on a young assistant
in Germany named Wehrner Von Braun, who became a leading rocketry
researcher for Germany, then after World War II led the U.S. drive
to land on the Moon. Oberth died in 1989 at age 95, Von Braun in
1977 at age 65.
education and experience has led him to the Stennis test stands,
where all of today's Space Shuttle Main Engines are tested, and
future developments are demonstrated. "This is where the ideas
prove themselves," he said. "At full scale and full power,
the engine tests give us the confidence to turn test engines into
flight engines. These facilities are unique in the world."
With a master's degree from California Institute of Technology and
a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), where he concentrated on rocket propulsion
research, Rahman cannot give enough credit to the educators in his
life. "Learning continues to be a lifelong endeavor,"
he said, "and I feel very much indebted to the many great teachers
over the years." That's particularly true about his thesis
adviser at PSU, Robert Santoro. "He was the type of person
who would teach you to learn on your own," he said. "He'd
give you all the resources you needed but support you when you needed
indebted to all his colleagues in the E-Complex. "We continue
to learn together, pushing the boundaries in our work of rocket
propulsion testing," Rahman said. "That's what makes this
time so rewarding."
in Mandeville, La., with his wife, Shaheen, and two daughters, Amnah
and Zara. Shaheen teaches biology at Southeastern Louisiana University in
Hammond, La., and both daughters attend school in the St. Tammany
Parish school district.
and photos for this story were provided by Stennis Space Center.