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Winter 2002 Vol. 11 No. 1


Silver Snoopy Awards NASA Astronauts' Silver Snoopy Award presented to Rodolfo Gonzalez

Rodolfo Gonzalez of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas is one of the 2001 recipients of the Silver Snoopy Award. Rodolfo was recognized for the outstanding support he has provided to NASA's Space Program. The "Silver Snoopy" is awarded to individuals for outstanding efforts that contribute to the success of human space flight missions. The coveted award is a sterling silver pin, which has flown aboard the Space Shuttle, in the form of Snoopy wearing a space helmet and space suit. Recipients are also given a certificate and a letter of commendation, personally signed by an astronaut, citing the astronauts appreciation of their outstanding performance.

To meet the criteria for this award, the individual's work must relate to flight safety or mission success. Job performance must be outstanding to distinguish the individual in his or her particular area of responsibility, and it must make a meaningful contribution to flight safety or mission success. Rodolfo Gonzalez, operations lead for the SIGI Orbital Attitude Readiness (SOAR) Detailed Test Objective (DTO), was responsible for defining and coordinating operational requirements, creating the procedures, training the crew in these procedures, and providing real-time mission support. His tireless efforts on these tasks directly resulted in the success of the SOAR DTO in its maiden flight, STS-101. The SIGI units integrate the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Inertial Navigation System (INS) to determine vehicle attitude, and this was a major milestone toward the operational use of GPS on the International Space Station.

Mr. Gonzalez graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December of 1993 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. As a undergraduate researcher for the Center of Space Research, he worked in the field of high precision orbit determination. He went on to continue his studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he completed his Masters of Science Degree in May of 1995. During his college career, he completed six cooperative education tours between the Mission Operations and Engineering Directorates at the Johnson Space Center. Upon graduation, Mr. Gonzalez joined the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division (A&FMD) of the Engineering Directorate in September of 1995. He currently serves within the Guidance, Navigation, and Control Development and Test Branch where he is designing and developing flight control system software.

Rodolfo Gonzalez is one of the youngest engineers to receive the Silver Snoopy Award. When he is not working at NASA, he enjoys a number of hobbies including volleyball, ultimate frisbee, water sports, snow boarding, gymnastics, piano, salsa dancing, and thinking games.

The History and the Meaning of the Award

Upon the completion of the Mercury and Gemini programs, NASA took steps to renew and invigorate consciousness of flight safety and quality performance in the space program. Because of the complexity of the Apollo/Saturn effort, which involved hundreds of thousands of workers in plants across the country, NASA initiated a review of existing industry motivational programs and ongoing government efforts. Although all these programs contained many excellent features, there was no direct reference to the Apollo/Saturn program, the astronauts, flight safety, or the importance of the national space program. Greater awareness of flight safety and a means for workers to identify with flight crews and their missions were needed.

In reviewing government programs, NASA found Smokey the Bear of the U.S. Forest Service of particular interest. A 1968 study revealed that Smokey was the best-known symbol in the United States. 9 out of 10 Americans were familiar with him and his message. NASA had to find such a symbol-one that was already accepted by the public, particularly the people working on systems for human space flight. The symbol had to emphasize flight safety and mission success, to act as a watchdog for manned flight.

Snoopy the precocious puppy from the popular Peanuts comic strip, appeared to be eminently qualified. He was a dog, he had previous flight experience (from the top of his doghouse), and he had national acceptance. People like to read what Snoopy has to say. NASA decided to approach Charles Schultz, the creator of Snoopy, and ask if the astronauts might be permitted to adopt Snoopy as their personal safety symbol. An avid supporter of the U.S. Space program, Mr. Schultz enthusiastically welcomed the idea. Both Charles Schultz and United Features agreed to let NASA use "Snoopy the Astronaut" at no cost. However, in the interests of preserving the comic strip character's integrity, certain and very reasonable guidelines were established. First, because no two artists draw Snoopy alike, and multiple artistic renditions of the floppy-eared celebrity would only compromise Snoopy's identity, Charles Shhulz himself would draw the figure of Snoopy on all NASA-related motivational items. Second, all Snoopy productions would carry the United Features copyright (a small "c" in a circle followed by "United Features Syndicate" and date of publication). The Silver Snoopy pins used in NASA motivation programs have a stamped copyright.

The Peanuts pooch, clad in his space helmet and space suit, remains a symbol of excellence for the Space Program. Like Smokey the Bear, he continues to battle lack of attention and strives to develop in each worker a continuing concern for the lives and safety of others. As the watchdog for flight safety, Snoopy promotes excellence in every phase of space flight to help ensure mission success.

The number of recipients normally represents less than 1 percent of the space program workforce. Individuals selected for the award receive a space shuttle flown Silver Snoopy pin, a letter of commendation, and a certificate presented by a member of the astronaut corps.

For Employment Opportunities in Our Nation's Space Program, visit:

Copyright 2001 GVR Public Relations Agency, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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