After eight years working as a computer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Christine Darden decided that she had spent enough time analyzing other people’s data. So in 1973, she went to her supervisor and asked why men with the same educational background as she were being hired as engineers. Impressed by her skills her supervisor arranged for her to transfer to the engineering section and Darden became one of only a few female aerospace engineers at Langley at that time.
Part of her work was to write computer programs and she was asked to write a program on sonic booms – a program that would be the beginning of a 25-year career focused on sonic boom minimization. Continuing her education while working at the center she earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering from George Washington University in 1983.
Six years later she was appointed the technical leader of NASA’s Sonic Boom Group of the Vehicle Integration Branch of the High Speed Research Program. As the lead of this project she was responsible for developing NASA’s internal sonic boom research program.
In 1994 Dr. Darden was appointed a deputy program manager of the TU-144 Experiments Program which used a Russian supersonic jet as a flying laboratory. Promoted to being a director in the Program Management Office of the Aerospace Performance Center at Langley in 1999 she was responsible for the center’s research in air traffic management and aeronautics programs at other NASA Centers.
She also served as a technical consultant on many government and private projects and authored more than 50 papers in the field of high lift wing design in supersonic flow, flap design, sonic boom prediction and minimization.
Darden spent 40 years working at NASA being awarded NASA’s Certificate of Outstanding Performance 10 times between 1973 and 2003. She also received other awards for her achievements including the 1987 Candace Award for Science and Technology from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and the 1988 Black Engineer of the Year Award from the publisher of U.S. Black Engineer & Technology magazine.
Written by Angela Goad