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Alumnus Robert Scharf focuses on the International Space Station

When the space shuttle flies, RIT alumnus Robert Scharf gets pictures hundreds of them.

Scharf (Imaging Science '94) works for Lockheed Martin Space Operations in the Image Science and Analysis Group at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. His group, which was created as a result of the 1986 Challenger accident, pores over photos of every shuttle mission, looking for anything abnormal.

Robert Scharf talks to College of Business students visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Scharf's role is to talk to shuttle crews and others at NASA to determine what imaging information will help them.

These days, the focus is on the International Space Station, and Scharf leads a group working on external survey activities for the project. As the ISS progresses, the team compiles images and passes the information along to others working on the project providing a close look at the station to people who may never actually see it.

He previously did similar work on 10 shuttle missions to the Russian space station Mir. He ultimately developed a book of Mir's external configurations, written in English and Cyrillic. The book proved immensely helpful to American astronauts visiting the station.

Although Houston is a long way from Scharf's roots in Horseheads, N.Y., he very much enjoys the position he's held since 1995. "It's great to work with the astronauts," he says, and his job constantly evolves. His imaging science background crosses several disciplines, allowing him to communicate comfortably with people from diverse backgrounds.

Six years after receiving his B.S., Scharf established the Elizabeth Ellen Locke Memorial Scholarship in honor of his godmother. "She worked for Westinghouse and assembled critical parts of the cameras that went on the first moon landing in 1969," Scharf says. "So I think it's interesting that she had a connection to imaging science."

The scholarship was first awarded last year, to Seth A. Weith-Glushko of Franklin Lakes, N.J.

When he was a student, Scharf received the Ezra Randall Andrews Scholarship funded by the Gosnell family. "I realized what a difference this can make, and I was glad to be able to help others in this way."