Safety is our top priority – Duarte

by Chris Bergin

Alberto Duarte – a key member of the Safety and Engineering Risk Review Panel at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) – spoke about the absolute requirement of safety, as reviews start to become the main focus of NASA’s mission of Return to Flight.

“One of our most important tasks is to ensure the hardware and software is ready to support the crew in safe flight and for mission success,”  Duarte said.  “The safety of the mission is our top priority.”
Along with other NASA representatives, Duarte is responsible for the review and approval of Space Shuttle main propulsion system safety reports and systems performance analysis.  These essentially provide the backbone of the Shuttle system by controlling its functions and performance.  Duarte also engineers changes in this system as a result of NASA’s Return to Flight Program and as a direct consequence of the 2003 Columbia disaster.
Duarte’s humble beginnings stand in stark contrast to the current position he holds today within the NASA family.  Originating from Bogota, Colombia, Duarte graduated from its National University in 1975 in chemical engineering. 
In 1981, Duarte moved to the United States where he was introduced to the world of space exploration, and more importantly, the Space Shuttle.  He became a lead engineer at Martin Marietta Aerospace in New Orleans and worked on the design, fabrication and testing of the External Tank for the Shuttle.
Years later in 1988, Duarte joined NASA as a lead systems safety engineer.  Throughout his NASA career, Alberto Duarte has held managerial and leadership positions – these include manager of the Systems Safety, Reliability and Quality Engineering Office for the advanced solid rocket motor in luka – Miss.
Duarte subsequently served as advanced development program manager for the Space Transportation Main Engine Program Office from 1992 to 1994 and as propulsion chief engineer for the X-33 flight demonsrator project from 1994 to 1999.  He returned to the Space Transportation Directorate at MSFC in 2000, serving as a special assistant to the director.
Finally in 2003, Duarte was named manager of the Integration Office in the Space Transportation Directorate, providing management and operational support across the NASA organisation.
Duarte is wholly focused on making sure NASA achieves its goals. 
“What we do today sets the foundation for the future of space exploration.
“We’re paving the way for those generations of explorers to come and inspire them to move forward with the Vision for Space Exploration.”

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