Next Stop: Mars

Who says the sky’s the limit for engineering alumni? Civil engineering alumna Dorothy Rasco (’81) helps lead a NASA team developing technology to capture an asteroid, put humans on Mars and send probes deep into space.

As Deputy Associate Administrator for Management at the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, Rasco’s office is behind revolutionary projects like the Mars Curiosity rover.

Dorothy Rasco standing in front of the Space Shuttle.

“I’m having a blast,” she says. “It’s like Star Wars but our scientists and engineers come up with ideas that really work.”

Rasco collaborates with universities, private industry and other government agencies around the nation to award several millions of dollars in grants. In Washington, D.C., she and her team translate highly technical projects to plain language palatable for a busy Congress.

The job merges policy and engineering. Her directorate receives policy guidance from the President, but Rasco taps into her engineering skills to turn ideas into reality.

She arrived at NASA in 1985 as an engineer designing physical facilities. She climbed the ladder and recently oversaw the wind down of the Space Shuttle Program – a job she finished six months ahead of schedule and under budget.

With the delivery of the four space shuttles to museums, NASA entered a new era, one Rasco that is committed to leading.

“Space technology will move us forward as a nation,” she says.