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Living the dream

Courtesy of NASA-JOHNSON SPACE CENTER.

Maureen Dutton, E’91, knew what she wanted to be since she was a child. “I was the youngest of three children and looked up to my big brother. He wanted to be an astronaut, so I wanted to be an astronaut,” Dutton says.

Math and science, fortunately, came easy to her. So she followed an engineering path, and after high school resolutely boarded the early-morning commuter train for the long trips from Attleboro, Mass., to Northeastern in pursuit of her engineering degree.

Before long, her dogged determination got her noticed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. “I found out who the co-op contact was and what I had to do to get a job there.” Every quarter, she sent her résumé or transcript to JSC and checked in with the co-op coordinator. “My aim was to make sure JSC didn’t forget about me, and that I didn’t irritate the JSC co-op office.”

It worked. She completed three co-op tours at NASA, was hired straight out of Northeastern and has worked at JSC for 22 years. She prefers to stay on the ground, though, rather than pursue her childhood dream of exploring space.

Dutton, who now lives in the Houston area, is pyrotechnic test director, responsible for testing, certifying and qualifying the pyrotechnic hardware that aided in the Space Shuttle launches. She now performs the same mission-critical tasks for the Orion program, the next-generation deep-space vehicle.

She also finds time to be a mentor, bringing math and science to life for K–12 students.

Her resolve has brought her fulfillment in life and work. “I say, ‘Dare to live your dreams.’ I did, and I’m loving every minute.”