NASA Fellowship recipient Bruce Vu concluding successful two

by Marshall Space Flight Center

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Growing up on the Pacific Coast near the end of the Apollo-era missions to the Moon, Bruce Thanh Vu's mind was on rockets to space.Today, working on the Atlantic Coast at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Vu is still preoccupied with the same subject — and his research is helping NASA usher in a new era of space exploration.

Growing up on the Pacific Coast near the end of the Apollo-era missions to the Moon, Bruce Thanh Vu’s mind was on rockets to space.

Today, working on the Atlantic Coast at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Vu is still preoccupied with the same subject — and his research is helping NASA usher in a new era of space exploration.

Since December 2001, Vu — an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. — has been on special assignment to the Kennedy Center in Florida. There, he is wrapping up the final phase of his NASA Administrator’s Fellowship, a two-year program that partners NASA scientists and technologists with minority institutions to teach and conduct research. Vu currently is combining field research with advanced computer simulations to analyze wind flow and other factors of fluid mechanics — the study of fluids and air streams in motion — that impact Space Shuttle storage, assembly and launch facilities at the historic NASA facility.

In the past 20 months under his NASA Fellowship, Vu also has investigated nanotechnology — research into molecular-level manufacturing of cell-sized computers and microscopic surgical devices — for the U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. In addition, he developed an innovative computer network solution for a Boeing Company national missile defense project, and taught fluid mechanics and other courses at Alabama A&M University — both in Huntsville.

No wonder the beach is calling to him.

Vu smiles, recalling the dizzying pace of the past two years, which brought his wife and family to the Florida coast from their longtime home in northern Alabama.

“It’s always been my goal to stay on the leading edge of the space program, to bring whatever I can to the table and help NASA accomplish its missions,” he says. “To be able to travel, to show my family different ways of life — that’s a bonus.”

“Bruce is a very focused and motivated individual,” says Robert Garcia, manager of the computational fluid dynamics branch of the Marshall Center’s Structural Dynamics Laboratory. “He has worked hard to make a difference at NASA, and to make the most of the opportunities available to him.”

Vu is currently working in the Computational Sciences branch at the Kennedy Center, studying wind flow characteristics around the Center’s large launch facilities to determine ways to reduce or negate unfavorable wind conditions during Shuttle “rollouts,” or transfer from the assembly building to the launch facility. His computer simulation, completed this spring, is expected to help facility engineers understand the physical phenomena of wind behavior at the site and update rollout requirements, making the Space Shuttle safer than ever during pre-launch activities.

More about the Administrator’s Fellowship

Recipients of NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program (NAFP) awards spend a year teaching mathematics, science, engineering or technology at a minority institution, where they also conduct research and mentor students. The program also seeks to increase the ability of these minority institutions to become an integral part of NASA’s overall research and development mission, introducing new partnership opportunities and teaching curricula.

“The NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program has given me a chance to accomplish many things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do as a federal employee,” Vu says. “The program has allowed me not only to enhance my career but also to share my knowledge with minority institutions and other organizations — to pass on what I’ve learned to a new generation of aerospace engineers and scientists.”

Vu’s commitment to the program hasn’t ended with his own award. During Alabama A&M University’s “High School Day,” sponsored annually by the Marshall Center, Vu spoke last year to high school students about careers in engineering. He was instrumental in inviting a fellow Administrator’s Fellowship candidate to the Marshall Center to complete his fellowship. He also initiated a technical exchange between NASA, Engineering Science Inc., and Morgan State University, a minority institution in Baltimore, Md.

Vu started his NASA career in 1987 at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., as a research assistant, developing computer programs to analyze wind tunnel performance at Ames’s Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. In 1989, he joined NASA’s Marshall Center as an aerospace engineer, developing complex computer simulations for studying advanced fluid dynamics related to launch vehicle design and performance.

A native of Garden Grove, Calif., Vu holds a 1987 undergraduate degree in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from the University of California at Davis. He also holds a 1992 graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and in 1999, earned his doctorate in aerospace engineering from Mississippi State University in Starkville.

He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, holds a number of NASA awards and certificates of recognition, and has authored or co-authored nearly a dozen major papers in the fields of computational fluid mechanics and fluid dynamics. More about NASA Space Transportation Programs

NASA is the nation’s premier agency for development of reusable launch vehicle technologies. NASA’s Marshall Center and Kennedy Space Center are key leaders in this effort, aimed at enabling dramatic improvements in the safety, cost and reliability of future space transportation and propulsion systems.

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For more information on the NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program visit: