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Alabamian selected to oversee key part of Artemis Moon mission

NASA this week announced Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan, a Huntsville native, has been named program manager for the Human Landing System. In this role, Watson-Morgan is tasked with the rapid development of the lander that will safely carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s surface in 2024.

That voyage, a critical milestone in NASA’s Artemis program, will pave the way for a long-term human presence on the Moon by 2028 and achieve the next “giant leap” toward sending human explorers to Mars in the future.

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the engineering directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“Lisa’s appointment to this key role not only reflects NASA’s confidence in her visionary leadership, but confidence in the proven expertise and world-class capability that define Marshall’s contributions to safely landing humans on the Moon and launching complex spacecraft to the Moon and Mars,” Marshall director and 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact Jody Singer said in a statement.

NASA explained that, as program manager, Watson-Morgan will oversee testing of landing systems working with American industry partners to develop, integrate and conduct crewed demonstrations. She will further manage lunar landing system integration with the Orion deep-space crew vehicle, launched by the Huntsville-built Space Launch System (SLS), that will carry Artemis explorers to and from the Gateway lunar orbital platform. From the Gateway, which also will feature significant contributions from Alabama, explorers will board the lunar landing system for missions to the surface of the Moon.

The ultimate goal is to deliver a landing system to sustainably ferry astronauts and technology demonstrators to and from the surface, yielding new science and material resources – and leveraging the Moon as a proving ground for future Mars missions, NASA added.

Watson-Morgan began her career in 1989. Since her appointment in 2013 to the senior executive service, the personnel system covering top managerial positions in federal agencies, she has served as manager of Marshall’s chief engineer’s office, director of the Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department, associate director of operations for the engineering directorate and, most recently, as deputy director of that organization, Marshall’s largest, with more than 2,000 civil service and contractor personnel.

She graduated from the University of Alabama in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. She also received a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering in 1994 and a doctorate in engineering management in 2008, both from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn