November 11, 2008

Blind NASA Engineer Solves Russian Problem

A U.S. space agency team led by a blind engineer built a system to receive data from a Soyuz spacecraft just days after Russia asked for assistance.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials said the request from the Russian Federal Space Agency was to devise a way to capture telemetry data from a Soyuz space capsule during de-orbit and re-entry.

Marco Midon, a blind NASA electronics engineer, proposed a mobile system be deployed at a ground site below the Soyuz re-entry path after its separation from the International Space Station. Midon ordered the equipment.

He and other NASA engineers then traveled to Athens, Greece, to set up the equipment on the roof of the American Embassy. Just after 6 a.m. on a morning in late October, only days after the Russian request, the system began receiving data from the Soyuz capsule as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

"I think the real story here is that we only had two or three days to come up with a solution to something and were then able to implement it in Europe," he said. "I may have been the technical guy who figured out how to do it, but there were a lot of other folks whose willingness to pitch in provided us with an opportunity to succeed."