January 25, 2023

Four Black NASA Experts You Need To Know About

Why wait for Black History Month to celebrate Black talent? According to Zippia, Black people comprise 13% of NASA’s workforce, each playing a significant role in astronomy and space exploration. Here are some of them.

Dr. Christian BraneonClimate Scientist

Dr. Christian Braneon was a climate scientist and civil engineer at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) from 2017 to 2022.

Dr. Braneon co-leads the Environmental Justice and Climate Just Cities Network (EJCJC) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and serves as Co-Chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change. He has a broad background in Earth science and civil engineering, with a further focus on climate and environmental justice. Dr. Braneon recently joined Carbon Direct as Head of Climate Justice. He previously served as Co-Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inaugural Environmental Justice Academy for community leaders.

With NASA, as part of its partnership with Microsoft, he developed novel applications of satellite data that aim to enhance resilience to urban heat stress. His work on urban heat islands and environmental justice has been featured in broadcast and print media outlets such as CNN, CNBC, and Science. In 2020 he co-authored America’s Zero-Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP), a comprehensive policy report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) that presents a strategic plan to create a carbon-neutral economy for the United States by 2050. He received an AXA Award for Climate Science in 2021 for his contributions to the understanding of climate change and related adaptation strategies.

Tyrone McCoy – Public Affairs Specialist 

NASA Public Affairs Specialist, Tyrone McCoy

Tyrone McCoy has been working at NASA as a Public Affairs Specialist for over a year. In 2022, McCoy managed to secure national and international media coverage for NASA’s astronaut 2022 class. He also garnered a total media reach of 330 million people through PR outreach. 

McCoy believes that anyone can bring their dreams to life, no matter their upbringing or current environment. 

“I didn’t have a great example of what love looked like all the time. I didn’t have the Cosbys, but I had exactly what I needed to [become] who I needed to be,” McCoy said. “I came from brokenness, but I’m not broken.” 

Vanessa Wyche – Johnson Space Director  

Vanessa Wyche, Director of NASA Johnson’s Space Centre

Vanessa Wyche is the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, home to America’s astronaut corps. Wyche is responsible for overseeing a broad range of human spaceflight activities. 

Before her role, Wyche served as deputy director at Johnson for three years beginning in 2018. 

The South Carolina native credits her upbringing and her access to mentorship, which has helped her significantly throughout her career. 

“I’ve been fortunate throughout my career here at NASA to have other people that were willing to mentor me,” Wyche said. 

“My biggest role model was my father, who always encouraged all his children to pursue academics and find their passion. That’s one of the reasons I was inspired to pursue engineering.” 

Lucy Donya Douglas-Bradshaw – Project Manager   

Donya Douglas-Bradshaw Lucy Project Manager

Lucy Donya Douglas-Bradshaw is a Project Manager for Lucy Mission – the first space mission to study the Trojans. Bradshaw has worked at NASA for more than 30 years. She started her career serving eight months as Lucy’s deputy project manager and later became the project manager. 

“We have a set of asteroids that are leading the plane and others that are trailing the planet,” Douglas-Bradshaw said. “Lucy will be the first spacecraft to explore the Trojan asteroid. It will provide us with insight into the formation of our solar system and our planet.” 

The Salisbury native has used her work ethic and passion, which she learned at a young age, to excel in her career. 

This article was corrected on May 10, 2023 to reflect Dr Braneon’s experience and credentials more accurately.

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.