Former NASA astronaut, Joan Higginbotham, is commencement speaker

Kesha Williams
May 02, 2011

former-nasa-astronaut-jo

Elizabeth City State University welcomes Joan Higginbotham as the speaker for the 152nd Commencement at 9 a.m. on May 7 in Roebuck Stadium.

Joan Higginbotham began her career in 1987 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, as a Payload Electrical Engineer in the Electrical and Telecommunications Systems Division. Within six months she became the lead for the Orbiter Experiments (OEX) on OV-102, the Space Shuttle Columbia. She later worked on the Shuttle payload bay reconfiguration for all Shuttle missions and conducted electrical compatibility tests for all payloads flown aboard the Shuttle. She was tasked by KSC management to undertake several special assignments where she served as the Executive Staff Assistant to the Director of Shuttle Operations and Management, led a team of engineers in performing critical analysis for the Space Shuttle flow in support of a simulation model tool, and worked on an interactive display detailing the Space Shuttle processing procedures at Spaceport USA (Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Center). Higginbotham then served as backup orbiter project engineer for OV-104, Space Shuttle Atlantis, where she participated in the integration of the orbiter docking station (ODS) into the space shuttle used during Shuttle/Mir docking missions. Two years later, she was promoted to lead orbiter project engineer for OV-102, Space Shuttle Columbia. In this position, she held the technical lead government engineering position in the firing room where she supported and managed the integration of vehicle testing and troubleshooting. She actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her 9-year tenure at Kennedy Space Center.

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, Joan Higginbotham reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Since that time, she had been assigned technical duties in the Payloads & Habitability Branch, the Shuttle Avionics & Integration Laboratory (SAIL), the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Operations (Ops) Support Branch, where she tested various modules of the International Space Station for operability, compatibility, and functionality prior to launch, the Astronaut Office CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) Branch in the startup and support of numerous space station missions and space shuttle missions, the Robotics Branch, and Lead for the International Space Station Systems Crew Interfaces Section. Joan has logged over 308 hours in space having completed her first mission with the crew of STS-116 where her primary task was to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS).

Joan Higginbotham was assigned to the STS-126 mission targeted for launch in September, 2008; however in November 2007, she retired from 20 year distinguished career with NASA in order to pursue a career at Marathon Oil Company.

She holds the following degrees:

  • B.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering, Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)
  • M.S. Management, Florida Institute of Technology
  • M.S. Space Systems, Florida Institute of Technology

Born in Chicago, Illinois, she enjoys body building (weightlifting), cycling, music, and motivational speaking.