Russ E. Fortson
Lockheed Martin Project Manager for BIO-Plex
Do you work for NASA or are you a contractor? If you are a contractor, what is the name of your contracting company?
I work for Lockheed Martin Space Operations
What is your area of expertise?
Agricultural Engineering, design systems to grow plants
What is your education and training? (Degrees held, in what subjects, from what institutions?)
I have a BS and MS in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Georgia
Describe your career path? (What positions have you held, where and for how long)
I worked for the University of Georgia as a research engineer in agricultural engineering, then I worked for the US Air Force (civilian) as an Electronics Engineer for reliability and maintainability. For the past 10 years (5 at the Kennedy Space Center and 5 at the Johnson Space Center), I've worked as an Agricultural Engineer in the Advanced Life Support Program. For the past 4 years, I've been LMSO's Project Manager for BIO-Plex.
What do you do? (What kinds of activities make up your work?)
I manage a team of people that ensure that all the different life support systems work together once we install them into the BIO-Plex.
What kinds of skills are important to have for this position?
IA good understanding of science is needed to have a basic understanding of how the life support processes work. A good understanding of math helps to understand the engineering principles behind the life support technology. An engineering background gives you the specific knowledge you need to design and build these systems
Do you do anything that is related to Astrobiology? If so, please describe how your work is related to astrobiology?
This depends on your definition of astrobiology. We use biological processes, along with chemical and physical processes, to recycle the products needed for human life support
How did you first become interested in this profession?
I've always been interested in space exploration. Agricultural Engineering is interesting because of the wide variety of applications (from the farm to a Martian base). Combining the two interests is the best of both worlds
What helped prepare you for this job?
The wide variety of agricultural engineering problems that I've worked in the past all have application to my current job
What do you like about your job?
I love the fact that what we work are doing will eventually be used by humans in the exploration of other planets
What donŐt you like about your job?
What is your advice to anyone interested in this occupation?
Be persistent. It took me several years of knocking on the door before I was finally hired in the space program. Also, always be aware of how your current work will help you in the future. Even when I was performing energy audits on tobacco curing barns, I knew that work with structures and heat transfer would be helpful in building space habitats.
What are your interests outside of work?
Surfing, golf, football, reading, music, movies, travel
What is your favorite scientific fact or words of advice?
The difference between civilization and anarchy is three days without food.