Though Dana Hutcherson doesn't travel into space, she does make sure those who do arrive back on Earth safely.
As a NASA flow director for the Space Shuttle Endeavor, Hutcherson oversees the maintenance and repairs to spacecraft before and after each launch.
A graduate of Evans High School, Hutcherson returned to her old middle school, Evans Middle, on Friday to discuss her career as an engineer.
"We just ensure everything is ready to fly and everything is ready to go," Hutcherson, the daughter of Evans Middle teacher Clara McAlhany, said to a group of eighth-graders.
Hutcherson told the pupils she works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which she likened to a small city that employs more than 15,000 people.
Hutcherson said she started as an engineer on the space shuttle's thermal protection system.
While a pupil at Evans Middle, Hutcherson first developed an interest in engineering.
"I was doing a careers project where I had to interview someone and I talked to a woman engineer," she said. "I just thought that was something I could do."
Hutcherson earned a mechanical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and then a master's degree in engineering management from the University of Central Florida.
McAlhany said her daughter was a good math and science student, but she never imagined she'd one day work for NASA.
"I always thought she'd do something in sports," she said.
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