Townsend, Marjorie Rhodes, 1930-2015
- Existence: 1930 - 2015
Marjorie Rhodes Townsend, born in 1930, entered The George Washington University engineering program at the age of 15. She took classes part time and worked full time after her marriage to doctor Charles Townsend in 1948, and was the first women to earn an engineering degree at GWU, receiving her Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1951.
Her career began with eight years at the Naval Research Laboratory where she worked on sonar research. In 1959 she moved to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center, where she worked until 1980. Noted for her project management skills, Townsend oversaw three satellite launches from foreign locations. She was project manager for all three Small Astronomy Satellites (1966-75) and for the Applications Explorer Missions (1975-76). She was granted a patent for a digital telemetry system that was aboard the NIMBUS satellite. Her last five years at NASA included responsibility for all advanced mission planning for future scientific and applications satellites as well as NOAA's meteorological satellites. After her retirement, Townsend worked for private aerospace companies and provided consulting services to NASA and other aerospace entities.
Townsend was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1971 and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1980. She was also named Knight of the Italian Republic Order in 1972. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and served as a chair of the Washington chapter. She also served as chairman of the National Capital Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a past president of the Washington Academy of Sciences.