Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, a native of Gaffney, South Carolina, and a graduate of Clemson University, is the first woman to be named a NASA launch director.
In her role in NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program, based at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, she oversaw the countdown and liftoff of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft during its first flight test, called Artemis I.
The Artemis I mission tests the capacity of space-tech, and the space agency’s plans are to utilize the skills and lessons learned in the Artemis moon missions in a program that will send astronauts on the much more difficult mission to Mars.1200
With the success of the Artemis I mission, NASA and Blackwell-Thompson will now dive into the data collected on this flight and look to choose a crew for the Artemis II mission. Projected to take off in 2024, the next goal will be to send astronauts on a similar trajectory as Artemis I, flying around the moon but not landing on its surface.
Blackwell-Thompson previously worked for Boeing, and at NASA she served as the lead electrical engineer for multiple Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. She is the holder of multiple patents related to launch vehicle interface standardization concepts, along with command and control methods and systems. She has received numerous awards, including multiple Space Flight Awareness Team honors, the astronaut’s Silver Snoopy for her work on the Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Stellar Award.