The UCA Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) hosted UCA Distinguished Alumnus Melvin “Ralph” Carruth, Director of the Testing Laboratory at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).
An audience of more than 50, including UCA faculty and students as well as students and faculty from local high schools, attended the presentation. Carruth discussed the many projects that are associated with MSFC focusing on NASA’s progress in designing and building the new Space Launch System (SLS). He explained to the group that the SLS will be used to lift payloads beyond low Earth orbits enabling manned exploration of the moon and beyond and presented a time-line development of the SLS, which includes an unmanned orbit of the moon in 2017 and a manned orbit in 2021.
His presentation finished with a lengthy question-and-answer session, then a private session with members of the SPS chapter.
Carruth began his career at NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in 1978 as an engineer. In 1981, he moved to the Marshall Center as an aerospace engineer, assigned to the Electronics and Control Laboratory. Since that time, he has served several posts including chief of the Physical Sciences Branch, chief of the Engineering Physics Division, and head of the Environmental Effects Group in the Materials, Processes, and Manufacturing Department.
Carruth is internationally recognized as an authority on ion propulsion and the interactions of thrusters with spacecraft, according to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Research and Development website. He has received dozens of awards during his career, and is considered a pioneer of techniques dealing with atomic oxygen interaction with material.
Carruth was born in Arkansas, and graduated from Poyen High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1975. Carruth received a Master of Science Degree at the University of Arkansas in 1978 and a masters in theoretical physics at the University of Alabama Huntsville.