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Valerie Thomas, born February 8, 1943 in Maryland, is a scientist and NASA project director. In 1980, she invented the illusion transmitter, which allows satellites to transmit 3D images from space.
Training and Career
From childhood, she showed her interest in technology by tinkering with her father electronic devices.
Ms. Thomas’ high school teachers encouraged her abilities and gave her additional projects. She graduated from high school around 1961, at a time in our civil rights history when integration was just beginning in the southern United States. After graduating from high school, she entered Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1964, Valerie Thomas was hired by NASA.
Throughout her career at NASA, Valérie Thomas thrived on projects that presented her with a challenge. It developed real-time computer data systems to support satellite operations control centers (1964-1970). From 1970 to 1981, she led the development of Landsat image processing systems (for three Landsat satellites), thus becoming known internationally as an expert contact for Landsat data products.
In 1974, Valerie led a team of about 50 people for the Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment (LACIE), a joint effort with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States. . Department of Agriculture. LACIE has demonstrated the feasibility of using space technology to automate the process of forecasting wheat yield on a global scale. The role of the GSFC in LACIE was accomplished with a minimum of time and money and a maximum of technical challenges. LACIE has been a resounding success.
After working at LACIE, Valerie spent a year from 1975 to 1976 at NASA Headquarters as Deputy Program Manager for Landsat / Nimbus before returning to GSFC. She was then responsible for operations for the early access system (nicknamed Scrounge) for Landsat-D’s new Thematic Mapper sensor. Valerie was also the technical lead for a multi-year, $ 42 million technical support contract and deputy project manager for the land data pilot system during the initial requirements definition phase.
Due to her unique career and commitment to giving back to the community, Valerie Thomas has spent a lot of time over the years speaking to groups of students from elementary to college and university and groups adults. As an exceptional role model for potential young black engineers and scientists, she has made literally hundreds of visits to schools and national meetings over the years.
She has served as a mentor for countless students working at the GSFC over the summer in addition to serving as a science fair judge, working with organizations such as the National Technical Association (NTA) and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). These latter programs encourage minority students to pursue careers in science and technology. Valerie has received numerous NASA awards, including the GSFC Award of Merit, the highest honor awarded by the GSFC, and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal.
In 1980 (October 21, 1980) she filed a patent for the illusion transmitter under the reference US Patent n ° 4 229 76117 which is still used by NASA, and could have applications in surgery, television or video games. .
Awards and Recognition
She is a recipient of the NASA Equal Employment Opportunity Medal and a recipient of the GSFC Award of Merit, the highest honor awarded by the Goddard Space Flight Center.
2019: She becomes a member of the National Society of Black Physicists