Prestigious NASA award for former Stevenage resident
PUBLISHED: 11:15 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 15 July 2019
A man who lived in Stevenage for more than 30 years is to be recognised with one of NASA's highest awards later this year.
Robert Sinclair, 55, is due to accept NASA's Distinguished Public Service Award - the organisation's highest honour for non-government personnel - for his "profound contribution" to NASA.
Rob's work on the Earth landing systems - the equipment used to help space crews land safely - for NASA's Orion, Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon have netted him the award.
Rob will be going to Maryland to accept the accolade from NASA's highest-ranked official, Jim Bridenstine, on August 28.
But he admits that he could never have envisaged life turning out this way when he was growing up on a council estate in Stevenage in the '70s.
Rob says the memories he made in Oaks Cross, St Nick's and at St Michael's School have stuck with him forever.
"Coming home after the sun went down, covered in dirt, they were special sort of times. In fact, the greatest time of my life," he said.
As his school years started wrapping up, the time came for him to make a decision about the career he wanted.
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"I always thought I'd go into construction, as my family has a long history of working in the plastering trade.
"I remember spending one day at work with my father. I came home exhausted and realised that really wasn't for me. So, I pulled out the Yellow Pages and started applying for every engineering job I could find."
This led to him becoming an apprentice at Irvin Great Britain, Letchworth in 1981 and never looking back.
An opportunity for a temporary transfer to Irvin Aerospace in Los Angeles, California arose in 1997, and Rob jumped at the opportunity.
"We were originally supposed to be working there as volunteers for six to nine months.
"I remember as the programme was winding down I told them I had no intention of going home."
Rob has been living the California dream ever since, and now works as the Chief Engineer at Airborne Systems, one of NASA's subcontractors.
Under his guidance, the company's parachute division has worked with some of America's brightest: from Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to a special contract for the Mars 2020 mission.
Although LA and North Herts are worlds apart, Rob says he wouldn't be where he is today without those formative Stevenage years.
"Working with NASA over the years has been a privilege. I'm humbled to be receiving this award."