NASA engineers Van and Rosalynne Strickland point to trust and teamwork as the cornerstones of their successful marriage. Those traits are also the cornerstones of their jobs – helping ensure the safety and success of the U.S. space program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The Stricklands, who work in the Safety and Mission Assurance Office at the Marshall Center, have worked together for 15 years. Today, they’re working to realize the goals of NASA’s Vision for Exploration, which calls for completing the International Space Station, returning to the moon and exploring Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

Rosalynne Strickland is the Software Assurance team lead in the safety office, leading a group that provides insight into the quality of software and makes sure it is developed according to established standards and procedures. The team reviews software for NASA projects, from the space shuttle and deep-space science missions to the new Crew Launch Vehicle, which will replace the space shuttle as NASA’s flagship space transportation vehicle in the next decade.

“We provide insight by working closely with those who develop the software,” she said. “We help improve programs by catching errors and risks early — before software is used in an actual mission and those problems have the chance to become major issues.”

Van Strickland, who started his career in the private sector, joined his wife in the Safety and Mission Assurance Office when he accepted a job offer with the Marshall Center in 1991. Today, he is manager of the Vehicle Integration Branch within the safety office, supporting development of the Crew Launch Vehicle.

“We are working directly with design engineers, making sure the different elements of the vehicle from engines to the crew compartments, are integrated properly,” Van said. “We’re working with the people and hardware taking us to the next level of space exploration.”

The Stricklands’ history together started long before they joined the Marshall Center team. They met as high school juniors in 1979. “There was a minority engineering conference for prospective college students at Auburn University,” Van Strickland recalled of that first meeting. “As a group, we obviously had similar interests, so we all stayed in touch.”

Both prospective engineers enrolled at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1980. Rosalynne Strickland earned her bachelor’s degree in 1984 in industrial engineering and joined Marshall the following year. Van Strickland completed his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1987. Their common love for the space program helped bring them together personally and professionally, and they married that year.

“I admit, I dreamed of being an astronaut. I knew when I was a child I wanted to work with NASA. I’ve always been a bit of a space cadet,” Rosalynne Strickland joked.

Van Strickland admits to his own obsession with a certain science fiction television series. “I’m a ‘Star Trek’ fan from way back!” Van said. “I was a huge fan of the series from the 1960s. I’ve always loved the idea of space exploration. I think I was destined to work in the field in some capacity.”

The Stricklands play a role in the Huntsville community as well as at the Marshall Center. She is a member of the local alumni chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and he is president of the graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The goal of both social organizations, and in turn the Stricklands, is to inspire children and young adults by being good mentors and role models. They help students through tutoring, scholarships and other activities.

“We feel like it is important to give back to our community by helping the next generation,” Rosalynne Strickland said.

Van Strickland agreed. “We want to be good role models for students and young people,” he said. “Perhaps they will think about entering fields of business they may not have otherwise considered.”

As the Stricklands work toward NASA’s goals, they also have ideas for the future of their own corner of the agency.

“The Safety and Mission Assurance Office is part of the team, working side-by-side with the personnel and their projects,” Van said. “We give an independent assessment, but we are still members of the team, not outsiders to the projects and organizations we serve. We provide value-added products and services and help improve NASA’s future — a common goal for all of us here at the Marshall Center.”

For more information on the Safety and Mission Assurance Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center on the internet, visit: