Karen Fields, Her Parents, and Booz Allen: Supporting NASA for 50 Years—and Beyond

Jul 25, 2019 2:50 PM ET
Article

A passion for space exploration runs in Karen Fields’ family. Her father ran NASA’s Zero Gravity program, which trains astronauts for space flight by flying planes in parabolic arcs over the Gulf of Mexico. Her mother supported science experiments for NASA’s payload operations. And as Karen watched the space shuttle missions evolve during her childhood and teen years, she knew she wanted to be part of the NASA mission.

Today Fields manages Booz Allen’s largest contract for NASA, encompassing more than 100 people and 40 active task orders at any given time. It’s important work for NASA’s next frontier: the Artemis program.

“The President has laid down the challenge to put American boots on the moon in 2024, and that’s a big leap for us (pun intended),” she said.

Building upon the lessons of Apollo 11

Booz Allen has been a partner in NASA’s space journey from the beginning. In the early planning stages of the Apollo mission, NASA grappled with a critical challenge: What was the best strategy (e.g., a giant Saturn rocket) for propelling astronauts to the lunar surface?

The agency turned to a few trusted consultants, in addition to its own experts, for preliminary calculations—Booz Allen among them. Booz Allen’s suggestion, the lunar orbit rendezvous method, was the chosen recommendation. And on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral, successfully returning four days later to cement America’s leadership in space exploration and enrich humankind’s knowledge of our universe to an unparalleled degree.

“The things we’ve learned from working in space have benefited the world, and there’s still more to be done,” Fields said.

Expanding frontiers and engaging the next generation

The Artemis program—a collaboration between NASA, U.S. commercial spaceflight companies, and international partners such as the European Space Agency—aims to land the first woman on the lunar surface and lay the foundation for establishing a sustainable presence on the moon and eventually sending humans to Mars.

Booz Allen is involved in many aspects of the Artemis program, including:

  • Hardware and software systems integration and ground systems engineering support for the Orion earth-to-moon spacecraft
  • Digital modernization and other support for the Gateway platform for staging deep space missions and the lunar lander that will ferry astronauts from Gateway to the lunar surface
  • Data analysis and visualization to help determine the best launch date
  • Strategic consulting and cybersecurity services for the development of exploration systems

Booz Allen has also been advancing the future of space exploration through sponsorship of the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge.

Each year, the program charges students ages 9-16 to develop STEM-based solutions to a specific pressing and complex problem. This year’s topic involves the physical challenges of long duration space travel. Over the past 10 months, teams of students from 95 countries have been working on solutions to make space travel more human-friendly and accessible.

Learn more about the Artemis program, meet this year’s FIRST LEGO League semi-finalists, and read about space exploration at Booz Allen.