62 Years at NASA and Still Going Strong

Sixty-two years ago today, Jack Boyd, senior advisor to the Ames director, first reported to work at Moffett Field, the home of NASA's Ames Research Center.

To get there, Boyd traveled on a transcontinental train from Virginia to the San Francisco Bay Area. While most of his classmates at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University chose to work close to home at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Boyd struck out on his own, and trailblazed his way to Ames.

"You'd have to be crazy not to be excited about space exploration," Boyd said about what motivates him to come into work every morning. "It's always fun. I'm continually amazed to think I've been with NASA for 62 years."

He first reported to work at the Personnel Office on Jan. 15, 1947, where after looking over his mechanical engineering degree with an aeronautics option, they decided to assign him to the Fluid Dynamics Division. "They walked me over to the1-foot-by-3-foot wind tunnel, introduced me to my colleagues and said, 'get to work!'" Boyd remembered. At 21 years old, Boyd was earning a respectable $2,644 a year, at a time when Walter Vincenti, his branch chief, and Harvey Allen, his division chief, were conducting cutting-edge, high-speed research in the Ames 1-foot-by-3-foot and 6-foot-by-6-foot wind tunnels on swept wings, conical camber, canards on supersonic aircraft, flights through non-Earth atmospheres and the shape of future space capsules.

In 1963, Harvey Allen nominated Boyd to corral all the new research at Ames into comprehensive programs. In the late 1960s, as America was redefining its space exploration mission and sending humans to the moon, Boyd served as the Ames’ lead to assist NASA Headquarters in Washington in creating new NASA research programs.

"Since the moon landing nearly 40 years ago, I think NASA's most remarkable achievement has been the robotic exploration of Mars, starting with the Viking spacecraft in 1976 to the Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix," Boyd said, when reflecting on NASA's many accomplishments.

Boyd worked as deputy director for Aeronautical and Flight Systems at Ames; deputy director of NASA's Dryden Research Center in Edwards, Calif.; acting deputy director and associate director of Ames, and then associate administrator for management at NASA Headquarters. He helped consolidate NASA’s helicopter research program, prepared Dryden for its role as a space shuttle landing site; implemented affirmative action programs for NASA; completed NASA’s advanced secure computing facility; worked with defense agencies on classified research, and led NASA to implement the reorganization and reforms of the Packard report about federal laboratories. Additionally, Boyd served as chancellor for research and was an adjunct professor of aerodynamics, engineering and the history of spaceflight for the University of Texas System.

In his 'second career' at Ames, Boyd supported educational outreach. Even when he became the executive assistant to the director, his primary role was that of advisor, teacher and mentor. Today, in addition to being the senior advisor to the Ames director, he also serves as the senior advisor for history and as the center ombudsman. In April last year, Boyd received the 2008 NASA Headquarters History Division Award for his energetic outreach and promo¬tion of NASA history and for making history relevant to NASA’s present and future.

"I'm most proud of my work helping and mentoring the new engineers as they came to work at NASA," Jack said.

Looking ahead, Boyd says he is excited for the upcoming launch of the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, mission to look for water ice on the moon, and the Kepler mission to search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system; the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, airborne laboratory which will help scientists study the universe using infrared astronomy; and all of NASA's continued efforts in aeronautics and exploration of our solar system.

Boyd's advice to anyone just starting out?

"Try to make as many acquaintances as possible to learn what's going on around NASA, and learn to deal with people," he advised with a smile.

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