Dr. Charles Camarda is an experienced research engineer and thermal structures expert with over 45 years’ experience at NASA. As a researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) he worked on numerous transdisciplinary teams to develop, analyze and test advanced thermal structural systems for hypersonic vehicles such as the Space Shuttle. He led the Thermal Structures Branch at NASA LaRC and the Structures and Materials Technical Maturation for the National Aerospace Plane (NASP), one of the most complex airbreathing hypersonic vehicles. He also led the structures team of the experimental single-stage-to-orbit vehicle (SSTO) which led to the X-33 Program and experimental vehicle development. He was selected as an Astronaut Candidate in 1996 and flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-114, NASA’s Return-to-Flight (RTF) mission immediately following the Columbia disaster. He was responsible for initiating several teams to successfully diagnose the cause of the Columbia tragedy and, in addition, develop an on-orbit repair technically technique which was flown on his RTF mission and all successive Shuttle missions until its retirement in 2011.
Following his successful mission on STS-114 Dr. Camarda was asked by NASA Administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin, to be the Director of Engineering at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston to change the culture there and to create a technically excellent engineering team. Dr. Camarda is an inventor, author, educator, invited speaker and guest lecturer on subjects related to engineering, engineering design, innovation, safety, organizational behavior, and education. He developed a methodology for creating networks of teams to rapidly solve complex challenges and is currently conducting research in this area with Professor George Siemens, Head of the Center for Complexity and Change in Learning (C3L).
He holds 9 patents, and over 20 national and international awards including: an IR-100 Award for one of the top 100 technical innovations; the NASA Spaceflight Medal, an Exceptional Service Medal; the American Astronautical Society 2006 Flight Achievement Award, and he was inducted into the Air and Space Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2017.