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Date: 01-11-11
Location: Bldg 9NW
Subject:  Documentation of Last KSC Astronaut Closeout Crew Training for Space Shuttle Program. Day 1 of 2
Photographer: James Blair

Susana Tapia Harper

Place of birth:

El Paso, TX

Family Heritage:

Colombia & Argentina


Chemical Engineer, New Mexico State University

Current job:

Flight Acceptance Material Testing Manager, NASA


When NASA was trying to go to the moon during the Apollo program they had a fire in the Apollo 1 capsule that tragically killed 3 astronauts. It was a big lesson for NASA. They learned that when you fill a capsule with 100% oxygen vs. 21% oxygen like what we have on earth materials ignite easily then burn extremely fast and violently. The Apollo 13 fire that inspired the movie was also a fire in and oxygen system. Because of these lessons NASA has dedicated itself to understanding oxygen flammability as has now become the worlds expert in how to use oxygen while preventing fires. I manage and work in the NASA department where we test for and make fires then make sure to teach others how not to. We also share this knowledge with the world and have had a huge impact on the design and regulations for medical oxygen so that oxygen can be used in hospitals and at home safely.


My job is fun and exciting as well as meaningful. I help to make astronauts in space, new born baby's in the hospital, and the elderly at home with their oxygen are all safe. I have and identical twin sister, Alma Stephanie Tapia, who also works for NASA and is a Technolochica. We get to work together as I perform the tests and she applies the data in design of the space suit and other NASA vehicles. We are Latinas that love space!

Why would you recommend exploring careers in science and technology to other Latina girls?

Because as Latinas we can be outspoken and opinionated, that's a good thing! We have great ideas that need to be heard. As women we naturally have the gift of attention to detail. Apply this attention to detail to making everything you touch perfect, weather it be your science project, your report, or your outfit for the party! Get involved in as much as you can.

My sister and I ran track, cross country, played the flute and cello, danced on a salsa and ballroom team, love classic cars, and participated in numerous science and educational clubs. Each experience teaches you something different and prepares you for multitasking, prioritizing, and on how to understand and work with different people. Not to mention it also allows you to fully enjoy life and all its possibilities to the fullest. We have a lot to offer, get going!