Skip to content

Alumni News, Spring 2021

Jackson Retires from NASA, Co-Authors Book

Karen Jackson

MABE alumna Karen E. Jackson is co-author of the recently released book entitled, Crashworthy Composite Structures: Aircraft and Vehicle Applications, that investigates the design and implementation of effective crashworthy composite structures.

Jackson received her bachelor’s degree, with highest honors, in engineering science and mechanics in 1981, and began her career as an aerospace engineer at NASA Ames Research Center after graduation. She transferred to NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, within a year of starting work. During her tenure at NASA, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech. She performed research in aircraft and rotorcraft crashworthiness, particularly focusing on nonlinear explicit transient dynamic finite element simulations of structural impact events, which resulted in over 165 technical papers. In addition, Jackson has received several major awards including the H. J. E. Reid Award for the best technical paper in 2003 and 2009 at NASA Langley Research Center. In 2008, she was presented with an Exceptional Service Medal by NASA and the Department of Defense. In 2010, she was named technical fellow of the American Helicopter Society (now called the Vertical Lift Society), and, in 2017, Jackson was awarded the prestigious AHS Nikolsky Lectureship, which is presented to “an individual who has a highly distinguished career in vertical flight aircraft research and development and is skilled at communicating technical knowledge and experience.”

After 37 years of federal service, Jackson retired from NASA in 2018, and is currently working as a part-time contractor for NASA through the National Institute of Aerospace as a senior research engineer.

Wilmore Returning to Space

Barry Wilmore

UT will once again have a presence in space in 2021, as NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore has been bumped up to the flight crew of the inaugural launch of the CST Starliner, NASA’s latest crewed vehicle. Wilmore earned his master’s degree in aviation systems from UT Knoxville through the UT Space Institute (UTSI) in 1994.

The Boeing Starliner is a crewed capsule that can be fitted to one of four different types of rockets. Its look is reminiscent of the NASA’s Apollo era, although slightly larger—it can hold up to seven astronauts as opposed to Apollo’s three—and is designed to be reused on up to 10 missions.

Wilmore had been serving as backup for the flight since training for it began in 2018, but was moved to the prime crew after fellow astronaut Chris Ferguson bowed out of the mission.

“I’m grateful to Chris for his exceptional leadership and insight into this very complex and most capable vehicle,” Wilmore said in a NASA release. “Having had the chance to train alongside and view this outstanding crew as backup has been instrumental in my preparation to assume this position. Wilmore joins Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke on the flight, which will test the Starliner’s capabilities during a flight to the International Space Station on an as-of-yet unscheduled date in 2021.