With Wisconsin engineer at the helm, San Diego company earns NASA award

Mary Baker

Mary Baker (BSEM '66)

ATA Engineering Inc., of San Diego, is one of two companies to receive the George M. Low Award, the premier NASA honor for quality and performance. ATA, whose president is Mary Baker (BSEM ’66),  supported development of the Mars Science Laboratory and its robotic rover, Curiosity, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

With 93 employees, this small business played a key role in the mission by conducting detailed mechanical simulation work to support spacecraft’s challenging entry, descent and landing at Mars in August 2012.

Evaluators cited ATA’s problem-solving ability, demonstrated with the design of Curiosity’s sampling scoop; its emphasis on contracting with small business and hiring young talent with high potential; and its strong culture of teamwork.

URS Federal Technical Services Inc. of Germantown, Maryland, earned the Low award in the large business award category.

The Low award demonstrates NASA’s commitment to promoting excellence and continual improvement by challenging its contractor community to be a global benchmark of quality management practices. The award was established in 1985 as NASA’s Excellence Award for Quality and Productivity and renamed in 1990 in memory of George M. Low, an outstanding leader with a strong commitment to quality products and workforce during his 27-year tenure at the agency. Low was NASA’s deputy administrator from 1969 to 1976 and a leader in the early development of space programs. Read the full NASA news release here.

Read a 2001 profile of Baker in the UW-Madison Department of Engineering Physics newsletter for alumni and friends.

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