Debrah Underwood

Woman of Vision
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Mrs. Underwood has worked at NASA MSFC for 33 years, holding management positions for 21 years.  During her 33 year career she has led training efforts for several Spacelab payload mission for both crew and ground support personnel.  She also conducted air-to-ground communications with the astronauts performing the scientific payload activities during those mission.

After leading several missions in the training area, she was promoted to the position of Payload Operations Director, a position responsible for all aspects of the Spacelab mission to which she was assigned.  This entailed all pre-mission planning activities consisting of mission planning, command and control of payload systems, and mission training.  During the mission execution phase, she was responsible for all real-time payload activities reporting directly to the Flight Director at the Johnson Space Center Mission Control and managing the activities of the Payload Operations Control Center in Huntsville Alabama.

Her leadership qualities and management capabilities eventually led to her becoming the Branch Chief and then the Division Chief for the Training and Crew Systems organizations.  In these capacities she was able to support the many female employees who were endeavoring to raise families and have meaningful careers by enabling part-time work and work for home situations as well as supporting their continued education and pursuit of advanced degrees through the granting of full time study opportunities.  Many of these women have gone on to advance in their careers.

She also took this opportunity to increase her own knowledge and skills by participating as a support diver in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Tank and as a payload researcher on NASA’s KSC-135 flights, both simulating the effects of zero gravity.  As Chief of the Mission Operations Laboratory Resources Office, Mrs. Underwood manages a small group of highly specialized individuals  but still encourages their development and educational advancements.  She is also currently leading/facilitating employee discussions aimed at creating a culture at MSFC which is caring and supportive of fellow coworkers such that each person is ensured of their own safety and well-being and supportive of the safety and well-being of their coworkers.

Mrs. Underwood does not limit her leadership qualities or influence to the office.  She has worked on the City of Madison’s Disability Advisory Board and is an active member of her church, teaching Sunday school classes for the children and youth and providing assistance wherever and whenever needed.Mrs.

Underwood has raised three children.  Her son, a graduate of Auburn’s Criminal Justice Masters program is currently a Major serving in the United States Army Military Police.  Her oldest daughter, who was born with a neurological disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis which causes seizures, delayed development and many other health issues, has lived well past the age her doctor’s predicted she would. She works part-time at a local day care and participates in Special Olympics events. Her youngest daughter, a graduate of Alabama’s school of Journalism is an up and coming executive.  Mrs. Underwood has greatly influence the lives of her children as well as the lives of her coworkers and employees

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