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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

After Atlantis: Alumna with Space Shuttle program looks to NASA's next robust mission of space exploration

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

Dorothy S. Rasco is perhaps closer to outer space than other URI alumni: She manages the Space Shuttle Business Office for the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX and has been with NASA for 25 years.

Just as the Atlantis was preparing to be launched on July 8, Rasco reflected about the Shuttle Program's final mission: "It is a bittersweet time for me right now. I have been spending a lot of time with many colleagues that have supported the space shuttle program for many years. I continue to spend half of my time in Houston and half of my time in Washington, D.C. working the the Exploration Systems Development organization."

Rasco, who earned her BS in civil engineering from URI in 1981, was interviewed last fall when she received a URI Distinguished Achievement Award.
With the decision to retire the Space Shuttle in 2011, Rasco had been asked to manage the transition and retirement of this highly complex program. Leading an organization of more than 700 government and contractor employees, Rasco provides strategic guidance, technical management policy, acquisition strategy, budget processes, analysis and assessments, for retiring the Space Shuttle Program.

She joined NASA as a civil engineer, designing facilities such as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, used to train the astronauts in a “weightless” environment. Since then, she has served in positions of increasing responsibility, and in 2006, was named business manager of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP). She is a key advisor to the SSP manager, sharing program responsibility and accountability for managing an annual budget of more than $3.2 billion and a multi-disciplinary workforce of more than 11,000 civil servants and contractors across the country.

As the Space Shuttle Program winds down, Rasco is looking ahead and upward. A member of the Human Exploration Framework Team, she is committed to maintaining sustainable and affordable human space flight: “We can send robots into space, but the human presence adds the fireworks. The human side touches the younger generation.”

She was awarded NASA fellowships to the Smith College Management Program and the Harvard Business School Leadership for Senior Executives. Her accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the JSC Certificate of Commendation, JSC and the NASA Group Achievement Awards, the Equal Opportunity Award, Outstanding Performance Award. She has served as vice-president and president of the Asian Pacific American Council, vice president of the board of directors of the JSC Child Care Center, and a member of Senior Executive Service, Society of Women Engineers, the JSC Diversity Council, the JSC Exchange Council, and the National Managers Association. A native of South Kingstown, she lives with her family in Houston, Texas.

Read more about Rasco in this recent Quad Angles feature story and learn about the Space Shuttle Program.