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Joyce McDevitt of Port Tobacco was presented with the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a Jan. 27 ceremony at NASA headquarters.
The citation was “for exemplary leadership, dedication and commitment to NASA as a member of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel,” according to a news release.
The occasion also marked McDevitt’s retirement after serving on the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel for six years.
The ASAP, established by Congress in 1968, advises the NASA administrator and Congress on NASA safety matters and hazards related to proposed and existing programs, facilities and operations.
In addition, McDevitt was recently honored by the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Women in Safety Engineering Common Interest Group for making a difference in the safety, health and environmental field.
Women from around the world and throughout history have been honored for their dedication to protecting people, property and the environment and for going above and beyond to make a difference in a publication, titled “100 Women, Making a Difference in the Safety, Health and Environmental Profession,” as part of ASSE’s 100th anniversary in 2011.
The WISE article on McDevitt provides highlights of her more than 45 years of experience in the system safety engineering profession, in which she is recognized as one of the pioneers. She began her career in 1960 at the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head, where she was the first female chemical engineer and received her first system safety assignment when she performed hazard analyses of large solid rocket motors for a NASA contract.
At Air Force Systems Command, McDevitt formulated major contributions for updating the system safety engineering cornerstone, MIL-STD-882, an accomplishment for which the commander of AFSC presented McDevitt with the System Safety Society’s Professional Development Award in 1977.
Continuing her career at NASA, McDevitt had even greater challenges with each assignment. In 1985, McDevitt was named chairwoman of a 14-member mishap investigation board at NASA to investigate the catastrophic failure of the fan blades for the 7-foot-by-10-foot wind tunnel at Langley Research Center. Her skills and best practices in hazard recognition and analysis helped lead the team to transfer the lessons learned to operators both nationally and internationally.
Following the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986, she led a team in conducting a review of the safety risk management system for the Space Shuttle Program. The recommendations of her committee received the attention of Congress and the national media, and the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology reconvened her committee to report on the safety readiness of the shuttle before its return to flight.
In her consulting work, McDevitt worked closely with the design team at the Applied Physics Laboratory from 2001 to 2006 in providing safety risk assessments for the New Horizons spacecraft, the first mission to Pluto with arrival expected in 2015.
In 2006, she was appointed to the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, providing independent oversight and reporting to NASA and Congress on the safety of NASA programs.
In the WISE article, McDevitt commented that “this is a wonderful way to wrap up my career serving with men and women of exceptional leadership, management and engineering competence on systems I have cherished so dearly, and, best of all, to be recognized as a WISE honoree.”
McDevitt has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s in engineering from Catholic University, and is a registered professional engineer in safety engineering.
She and her husband, John, who is also a chemical engineer, live in Port Tobacco.
Their three children, Sharon, Cindy and Joe, are engineers as well.