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Recent Advances in Spacecraft Occupant Protection

Nancy J. Currie, Principal Engineer, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, Johnson Space Center

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), in collaboration with NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP), are conducting studies associated with spacecraft occupant protection, focusing on applications for NASA’s next generation spacecraft. Reliable injury predictive tools and injury criteria are required to ensure that human-rated spacecraft be designed with the appropriate level of occupant protection. While it is extremely important to protect occupants from injuries it is also important to ensure that the vehicle is not designed with excessive protection that could result in unnecessary vehicle mass, size, and/or complexity. This talk will give an overview of the recent developments in spacecraft occupant protection.


Dr. Nancy J. Currie is a Principal Engineer with the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She was first assigned to JSC as a flight simulation engineer in 1987. Selected as an astronaut in 1990, Currie is a veteran of four space shuttle missions and has accrued 1000 hours in space. She was a Mission Specialist and Flight Engineer on STS-57 in 1993; STS-70 in 1995; STS-88, the first International Space Station assembly mission in 1998; and STS-109, the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in 2002. She has also served as chief of the Astronaut Office Robotics and Payloads-Habitability branches, chief of JSC’s Habitability and Human Factors Office, and Senior Technical Assistant in JSC’s Automation, Robotics, and Simulation Division. Following the Columbia tragedy in 2003, she was selected to lead the Space Shuttle Program Safety and Mission Assurance Office assisting with NASA’s Return to Flight efforts. Until her assignment to the NESC, Dr. Currie served as Deputy Director of JSC’s Engineering Directorate. A retired United States Army Colonel and Master Army Aviator, she has logged over 4,000 flying hours in a variety of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft.