Director, NASA Langley Office of Education
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Bravely served his nation in war and as a civilian and inspired young people to explore careers in science and engineering.
Samuel Massenberg’s lengthy public service career involves a story of perseverance, courage and dedication. He has served his nation as a wartime aviator, and in peace he has created programs that inspire young people to explore careers in aerospace.
His 41 years of service began with a stint as a US Air Force pilot during the Korean War. After enduring a brutal incarceration as a POW, Massenberg vigorously pursued his Air Force career for the next two decades, serving as a bomber pilot with the Strategic Air Command and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
His subsequent work at NASA’s Langley Research Center Office of Education has motivated students at all educational levels to explore scientific or engineering careers.
In 1986, Massenberg foresaw that internships could offer students real world experience while introducing them to long-term opportunities at NASA. As a result, he created the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS) program. NASA created a virtually identical program for the entire agency after Massenberg’s program was listed in the Princeton Review’s “America’s Top 100 Internships” for three consecutive years. Thousands of LARSS students have since worked in aerospace jobs around the nation.
Recognizing that much more needed to be done to reach students, Massenberg moved aggressively into new educational technologies. He developed a set of aerospace-related distance learning programs that were broadcast to over 15 million K-12 students in classrooms nationwide. Another distance learning program he launched, “NASA CONNECT,” won the Emmy Award and was recognized as “Best in the USA” by the US Distance Learning Association for two consecutive years.
In the early 1990s, Massenberg served as the Director of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Division, where he created the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Research Center to promote the advancement of minorities in the fields of science and technology and to train minority students and faculty in research skills.
Massenberg’s skills as a resourceful manager and talented leader have allowed for successful, widely implemented, and critically acclaimed programs. He develops ideas for his projects and then fosters a massive collaboration of efforts and resources to achieve successful results. His coworkers describe this “epitome of a gentleman” as an “amazing person” with an “unbelievable amount of high energy.”
Americans will reap the benefits from Massenberg’s hard work for years to come. The lasting effects of his HBCU Research Centers, the LARSS program and the NASA CONNECT series continue to expose students to the myriad possibilities in the field of aerospace technology.