Duke Tran knows the value of hard work and its rewards. The Boeing engineer's space shuttle structure expertise and his contributions
toward making space vehicles safer has earned him NASA's highest award for a non-government worker. Tran was honored for his work
as a principal member of a prestigious NASA study team that examined how future spacecraft could be designed better, using the
lessons of the Columbia tragedy.
Tran used his knowledge as a subsystem manager on the space shuttle forward fuselage and crew module to help NASA reconstruct how the
orbiter broke up upon reentry on Feb. 1, 2003. He authored a major section of the 400-page report released last December and was awarded
a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal last month.
The study (NASA's Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team report) had Tran working side by side with noted forensic
doctors, astronauts and experts from other fields as they examined the shuttle debris at Kennedy Space Center. The team performed a
multidisciplinary analysis of the Columbia accident that focused on the crew, crew equipment, and the crew module.