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Aero Alum Awes Astronaut Arnold

UC engineering alumnus Robert Polsgrove receives the coveted Silver Snoopy from Astronaut Richard R. Arnold II.

Date: 6/16/2007
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
UC ingot Recipients say that of all the Space Flight Awareness (SFA) awards, the Silver Snoopy best symbolizes the intent and spirit of SFA. Astronauts personally present this award to employees for outstanding performance. The number of Silver Snoopys presented in any year cannot exceed 1% of the program population. The award includes a flown Silver Snoopy pin, the commendation letter stating when the Snoopy was flown and a signed Silver Snoopy certificate and frame.

Astronaut Richard R. Arnold II gives Robert Polsgrove his Silver Snoopy pin.
Astronaut Richard R. Arnold II gives Robert Polsgrove his Silver Snoopy pin.

“There are a lot of awards that employees receive, but this one is the most coveted,” says Polsgrove.”To me, the Silver Snoopy means that I personally made a significant contribution to improve shuttle safety and protect the crew. It means that the astronauts recognize you, among thousands of other people, as making a difference in space flight safety.”

The Silver Snoopy is the astronauts’ personal award. Candidates are considered if they have made contributions toward enhancing the probability of mission success, or made improvements in design, administrative/technical/production techniques, business systems, flight and/or systems safety or identification and correction or preventive action for errors.

“Because this award is given by an astronaut, it is a reminder of how important the job that I do really is,” Polsgrove says. “Every time the shuttle lifts off, the crew is trusting me and everyone that works with me with their lives. That is very humbling.”

Polsgrove began his career with NASA in August of 1999 after graduating from UC's Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department in June 1999. He is at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,  Ala., where he works as a propulsion systems engineer on the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME).

“I support SSME ground operations activities by performing engine hotfire data analysis for SSME ground tests,” he explains. “And for shuttle flights, I manage two systems consoles during launch countdown and vehicle ascent, where I assist in evaluating the health of the engines. After the flight, I provide an evaluation of engine system performance, including identification of system technical failures or performance deficiencies, and recommendations for resolution of such failures, should they occur. This week for me has been analyzing engine performance data from last Friday's launch, STS-117.”
Polsgrove was a member of the SSME investigation team formed in response to the Columbia accident in 2003. The two years after the investigation was closed, he and his team worked engine software and operational limit updates to further improve SSME safety. Because of those return-to-flight efforts, Polsgrove received a NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Certificate of Appreciation in 2005.
Polsgrove's wife, Tara, is also a NASA employee, working in the Advanced Concepts office doing preliminary design of new space vehicles. (They have one daughter and another one on the way.)

Robert Polsgrove’s fondest memories of UC are the long nights he spent working with his classmates in the student lounge of the aerospace department.

“The schoolwork was overwhelming sometimes, and late study nights became typical,” he says. “We would laugh and joke, and probably take twice as long to do the work as we should have, but we enjoyed the time with each other.”

Richard Arnold, Robert and Tara Polsgrove and their daughter, Kelsey.
Richard Arnold, Robert and Tara Polsgrove and their daughter, Kelsey

The Canton, Ohio, native attended Heritage Christian High School in downtown Canton, where he was salutatorian of his class of 1994. Polsgrove earned his bachelor degree in aerospace engineering from the Univeristy of Cincinnati. He subsequently received a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville by taking evening classes over several years.

“It was a good experience, but can't touch the special place in my heart that UC will always have,” he says. “I most remember Dr. Kirti Ghia. He was such a patient man—always willing to help. He was tough, but praised you when you did well. It felt good to get a compliment from him. When I was there, his office was in Baldwin Hall. We always used to joke about the stacks of papers and books in his office that would go practically to the ceiling, and we expected him to be late for class one day simply because he got trapped under an avalanche of paper.”

"I am very much a strong supporter of UC's co-op program. While getting my undergraduate degree, I worked for six quarters at Delta Air Lines in Atlanta in the propulsion department. Not until I started working for NASA did I realize how valuable the co-op opportunity is. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Robert Polsgrove
Robert Polsgrove's Silver Snoopy pin was flown on the space shuttle Atlantis in 1991.


“I don't want to become an astronaut,” says Polsgrove. “It's a glamorous, high-profile profession worthy of praise, but not for me. I find my job on the ground to be the most rewarding thing I can do with my life, and I plan on doing it for a long time.”


NASA would be happy to hear that, no doubt.


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