Jan Davis and Auburn University

written by David Mixson

In addition to seeing Challenger happen, Jan Davis was one of the puzzle pieces that led me to want to work at NASA. I’ve never told her that—until now.

I was the president-elect of the Auburn Mechanical Engineering student organization (ASME) when she appeared on the cover of the Newsletter. I still have an original copy from 1988—and I’m not a hoarder.

Jan was at the end of her first year of training after being selected as an astronaut. I thought it was cool to be an astronaut and even cooler that she attended Auburn. As a bonus, she worked at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama before she was selected to be an astronaut. MSFC was where the rocket motor stuff on the Shuttle was managed.

If Jan could graduate from Auburn and be an astronaut, surely NASA would consider me for an engineering slot. Right?

The hook to work at NASA and do propulsion was set. Now, I just had to make it through my senior year and convince someone at MSFC to hire me. I knew neither task would be easy, but I was up to the challenge. I was cocky then.

Jan, since we’re both retired now, I figured it was time for you to know how you impacted my decision to join NASA over thirty years ago. I’m sorry it took me so long to mention it.


* This article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of the “Make NASA Great” series.

About the Author

David Mixson writes about Old Space and New Space. He worked as an engineer at NASA for more than thirty years and is the author of three books.

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