Sands Test Facility Manager Steve Nunez uses the public address
system in a WSTF Fire Department vehicle to talk to White Sands
employees during the facility's 2003 Safety and Total Health
White Sands Test Facility,
Las Cruces, N.M.
stand ready to do our part to support the President’s vision."
- WSTF Manager Steve Nunez
-- White Sands Test Facility (WSTF), located in southwestern New
Mexico, has been a part of the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) since
its construction in 1963. Its primary mission is to provide the
expertise and infrastructure to test and evaluate spacecraft materials,
components and rocket propulsion systems to enable the safe human
exploration and utilization of space.
Project Apollo in the early 1960s, WSTF has supported every United
States human exploration space flight program. It continues to play
a key role in the nation’s space effort by evaluating materials
and components for use in propulsion, power generation, and life-support
systems; crew cabin equipment; payloads; and experiments carried
aboard the Shuttle orbiter and the International Space Station.
Nunez, the new manager of WSTF since July 2003, is a seasoned NASA
veteran who brings with him his One NASA background and can-do attitude.
his career at NASA in 1989 as a systems engineer after receiving
his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Mississippi
State University in 1984. He has held various positions throughout
several NASA centers including Deputy Manager of the International
Space Station Management Integration Office at JSC and Detail to
Associate Administrator of the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters.
He also served as a Congressional Fellow to the United States Senate
Majority Leader focusing on aerospace and veterans’ issues.
In an interview
with the Johnson Space Center Roundup, Nunez talked about
his job and the future of White Sands.
does the President’s recent announcement affect WSTF?
A large portion
of our work is Shuttle and Station related, so from that perspective
it will impact us. However, WSTF has a proven track record of supporting
the safe exploration and use of space dating back to the Apollo
program. We stand ready to do our part to support the President’s
has been your experience at WSTF so far?
has been very positive here. I have found that the WSTF team has
strong passion, commitment and a great sense of pride in supporting
our nation’s space program. This team exhibits a “can-do”
attitude with everything they do, which is a real asset to NASA.
It is an honor for me to lead such a talented and dedicated group
of people. I am also honored that General Howell, Randy Stone and
others have the confidence in me to do the job.
have worked at various NASA facilities --Stennis, JSC and NASA HQ.
How do feel that this diversity has helped you in your position
as manager of WSTF?
that I have had has helped me to grow and gain a better understanding
of what the roles are at Stennis, JSC and Headquarters. Even my
time on Capitol Hill has added to my experience. I learned something
from every one of those assignments. It has given me a good understanding
of the big picture. By working at different centers, I have learned
to value the importance of One NASA.
As a result
of working at different centers I have been able to apply One NASA
to what we are doing here at WSTF. For example, shortly after I
arrived here we had a couple of large procurements to make by the
end of fiscal year 2003. We did not have enough people to complete
the procurements at the time, and JSC had a heavy workload as well.
I contacted the folks at Stennis I had worked with before to see
if they could help, and they said they would be glad to. With Stennis’
were able to complete the procurements by the end of the fiscal
year. Our employees learned that Stennis has a can-do attitude too
and, if we need help, we can draw on resources elsewhere in the
Agency as a team to accomplish our mission.
do you see your relationship with JSC, and how do you compare the
We work very
closely with JSC. I want to make sure that we continue the close
working relationship that is required to meet the missions that
we have before us.
are considered a test facility and part of the Johnson Space Center,
we are like a “mini-Center.” We have an infrastructure
similar to JSC such as security, emergency services, facility maintenance
and operations, component services, cleaning and calibration services,
warehousing, logistics, procurement, financial management, contract
administration, information technology, etc., required to support
the testing of various spacecraft components, materials and propulsion
systems as well as maintaining White Sands Space Harbor.
What are some of your goals for WSTF?
safety performance. Safety is very important to me. I have found
that the culture here is one that values safety, which is a result
of the past managers like Joe Fries and others. That culture recognizes
that safety is extremely important. When you are located in a hazardous
test facility, you have to make sure that you are doing things safely.We
are not going to rest on our laurels relative to our current safety
position – we want to do better and our employees are committed
to doing that as well.
excellent support for return to flight. Our support in the return
to flight will involve ensuring all the thrusters required for the
Shuttle are ready in a timely fashion. We are also working on hypervelocity
and low-velocity impact testing. The data that we gather from this
testing is going to be helpful in making good decisions to support
the return to flight.
support to the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and other
programs while preparing to support the development of the crew
exploration vehicle and returning to the Moon.
Even though the Space Shuttle is to be retired by the end of the
decade, there is still work ahead of us to support completing the
International Space Station, which will require the Space Shuttle.
do you see your role in regard to the employees of White Sands?
I like to be
directly involved with employees. I really enjoy getting to know
folks. The people here have done a great job in making me feel a
part of this team and part of the community. We recently held a
Safety and Total Health Day where one of the events was set up to
show the managers how difficult it was to try to do a task while
wearing personal protection equipment. The Honeywell program manager
and I had a race to see who could complete the task first. This
was a great way for management to get involved with our employees
and get a feel for what they deal with relative to getting their
would you like people to know about WSTF?
I want people
to know that we at WSTF are proud to be part of the Johnson Space
Center and are proud to support our nation’s space program.
We are looking forward to the new vision that President Bush has
set out for us and in helping the Agency fulfill that vision. I
would also like to extend an invitation to all to come visit us.
I believe you will recognize our tremendous capability to test and
evaluate spacecraft materials, components and propulsion systems.
More importantly, I believe you will find the people here very friendly
and eager to help wherever they can as we work together to advance
human exploration of space.