After earning her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering but before joining NASA, Dr. Jan Davis worked in the private sector as a petroleum engineer in tertiary oil recovery. Hired at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as an aerospace engineer in 1979, she worked on many projects including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Advanced X-Ray Astrophysics Facility. She was assigned as the lead engineer for the redesign of the solid rocket booster external tank attach ring in 1987, the same year she earned her doctorate from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and was selected as an astronaut.
Davis was part of three space shuttle missions spanning from 1992 to 1997, starting with STS-47. This was the 50th Space Shuttle mission and included the cooperative venture between the U.S. and Japan, known as Spacelab-J. During this eight-day mission Davis was responsible for operating Spacelab and its subsystems and performing a variety of experiments.
Her next flight, launched in 1994, was the second of the Space Habitation Module, or Spacehab, and the first flight of the Wake Shield Facility. Responsible for performing scientific experiments in Spacehab, Davis’ primary responsibility was to maneuver the WSF using the remote manipulator system.
Her last flight would be as the payload commander aboard the shuttle Discovery on which she would deploy and retrieve the CRISTA-SPAS payload and operate the Japanese Manipulator Flight Demonstration robotic arm. After spending a total of 673 hours in space, Dr. Davis was assigned to work at NASA Headquarters as the Director of the Human Exploration and Development of Space, Independent Assurance Office for the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance.
Transferring to a new position at the flight center in 1999, she was named Director of the Flight Projects Directorate where some of her responsibilities included management of aspects of the International Space Station. Four years later Davis was appointed Director of Safety and Mission Assurance where she was responsible for the safety, reliability, and quality activities for all Marshall Space Flight Center projects and personnel. Retiring from NASA in 2005, Davis returned to the private sector as Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Jacobs Engineering Group.
Written by Angela Goad