Loria West takes
‘FAST’ track to high-tech world of NASA’s Space Shuttle
Growing up in rural Morgan County, Ala., Loria West never dreamed she
would be part of the fast-paced, high-tech world of NASA. After all,
she wasn’t interested in science or engineering.
But last September, West found herself at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.,
preparing for the launch of U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis on Mission STS-106.
West joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
as a summer intern in 1995 with the Future Assets Student Talent (FAST)
program. FAST sponsored by Alabama A&M University in Huntsville,
the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and NASA is
aimed at placing disabled high school and college students in temporary
“I just couldn’t believe I was in the heart of it,” said West, a management
support assistant in the Space Shuttle Projects Office at the Marshall
Center. “I grew up hearing about NASA, but I always related it to rockets.
I never thought I would be part of it.” Marshall Center employees
including support personnel assist at every Shuttle launch.
West has worked for the Shuttle Office for the past five years.
When her summer with FAST ended, the Shuttle office hired her as a
temporary employee while she completed her business administration degree
with a concentration in human resources -- at Athens State University
in Athens, Ala. She is also a graduate of Calhoun Community College
in Decatur, Ala.
West joined Marshall’s civil service team in August 2000 as a management
It’s not unusual to find her sitting at a desk other than her own.
She served as a “floater” volunteering to fill in at other offices
and gain more experience.
“I like being part of the Space Shuttle’s success,” says West. Her
responsibilities include coordinating travel arrangements for Shuttle
Project Office managers, tracking the Shuttle travel budget and serving
as the training coordinator for approximately 200 people.
West has never been one to accept limits. At 9, she was severely injured
when her family’s car was hit head-on by a driver who had fallen asleep
at the wheel. Her parents, James and Diane West, were killed and West
suffered numerous injuries, including a broken back. Her two brothers
had less severe injuries.
West spent five months in Birmingham, Ala., hospitals before she was
able to join her brothers at the home of her aunt and uncle, Rhonda
and Billy West of Trinity, Ala.
“Yes, I have a wheelchair, but I’ve led a normal life,” says West,
now 28. “My family has always encouraged me to be independent.”
West is a graduate of West Morgan High School, Calhoun Community College
and Athens State University. She and her daughter, Gabrielle, live