N. Jan Davis, Ph.D., P.E.
Vice President and Deputy General Manager, Jacobs Engineering at NASA MSFC
Dr. Jan Davis is Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Jacobs Engineering and Science Services and Skills Augmentation (ESSSA) Group at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama. The ESSSA group at MSFC provides engineering, scientific, and technical support for projects and programs at Marshall. She was also recently named as one of four Jacobs’ Aerospace and Technology Technical Fellows.
Prior to retiring from NASA in 2005, Dr. Davis was the Director of Safety and Mission Assurance at MSFC leading up to the successful Return to Flight of the Space Shuttle Program in 2005. Her directorate was responsible for the safety, reliability and quality activities of all Marshall Center programs, including establishing and assuring compliance with NASA safety and mission assurance strategies, policies, and standards and implementing methods for identifying and assessing safety risks.
Dr. Davis served as the Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at the Marshall Center until August 2003. She led a team of more than 1,400 civil service and contract workers responsible for payload and science operations for the International Space Station, training crews to operate Space Station science experiments and operating the control center for those experiments. Her directorate was also responsible for the Chandra X-ray Observatory Program Office, overseeing operations of the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope.
From Huntsville, Dr. Davis worked for Texaco Exploration and Production services in Texas for two years before beginning her NASA career at MSFC in 1979 as an aerospace engineer. She subsequently supported major NASA programs and projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission. In 1986 after the Challenger accident, she became a team lead and lead engineer for the redesign of the Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster External Tank attach ring. She has authored several technical papers, is a Registered Professional Engineer, and has one patent.
Dr. Davis was selected to join the astronaut corps in 1987 at the NASA Johnson Space Center. She spent more than 670 hours in space as a mission specialist over the course of her three flights: STS-47 (1992), STS-60 (1994), and STS-85 (1997). During these flights, she orbited the Earth 325 times while operating experiments, operating the Shuttle’s arm, and various other duties. On her last space flight, she served as the Payload Commander of the mission. While in the astronaut corps, she served as the Mission Development Branch chief in payloads, robotics and extravehicular activity for the Space Shuttle, chaired the NASA Education Working group, and was a CAPCOM for six missions. In 1998, she became the Director of the Human Exploration and Development of Space Independent Assurance Office for NASA Headquarters. She returned to Marshall in 1999 as Deputy Director of the Flight Projects Directorate and was named Director of the Flight Projects Directorate in January 2001.
Dr. Davis did her graduate research work in mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and is a 1971 graduate of Huntsville High School. She also has degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Auburn University in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
She was elected to both the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame and the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. In 2002, she was given the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive by then President Bush, and she has received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal twice, Space Medal three times, and Outstanding Leadership Medal. In 2012, she received Auburn University’s Lifetime Achievement Award and in May 2013, she received the Christine Richard Girl Scouts Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, she was named one of the Women who Shape Alabama.
Dr. Davis is active on the Auburn Engineering Alumni Council, the Astronaut Memorial Foundation Board of Trustees, and is past chair of the National Space Club-Huntsville. She is currently on the Association of Space Explorers – USA board, the Madison County committee for the Alabama Bicentennial, and was appointed to the Iceplex Board in Huntsville. She has served on many non-profit boards in the past, and has a passion for encouraging young people to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields, especially girls. Her hobbies are quilting, flying, and outdoor activities. She is married to the Honorable Judge Dick Richardson and they have two grown children and one grandchild.