• 2019 GMiS Luminary •

Dionne M. Hernandez-Lugo, Ph.D.

Deputy Manager, Kilopower Project
Space Technology Project Office, Space Flight Systems Directorate
NASA Glenn Research Center

If the President of the United States ever gets a call from Dr. Dionne M. Hernandez-Lugo, you can be sure he or she will get right on the phone.  

As Deputy Nuclear Launch Coordinator and Project Manager for the Radioisotope Power Systems Program Office at NASA Glenn Research Center, Dr. Hernandez-Lugo is responsible for leading missions and securing permission from the White House to launch spacecraft incorporating nuclear-power. Armed with the skills and experience to define the risks and consequences of an accident in the launch and flight stages of this newly developed technology, she is one of the few people qualified to prevent the type of disaster that recently took place in Russia.

With an eye on planned upcoming manned missions to the moon and Mars, Dr. Hernandez-Lugo is leading NASA researchers and engineers in the development and testing of fission-based nuclear power systems for sustained operations on the Lunar and Martian surfaces.

Her extraordinary scientific career has resulted in over a dozen publications and conference presentations of her work, a pending patent, and has led to countless awards and fellowships, including numerous internal NASA awards, fellowships from the national Science Foundation and NASA, and recognition by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers as a Woman Trailblazer.

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Hernandez-Lugo earned her B.S. in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, and her Doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. In addition to her current project, she has made important contributions to battery design for next-generation hybrid and electric aircraft and to the detection of harmful algae blooms via remote unmanned aerial vehicles, a project that provided critical early warning of toxic growths in Lake Erie.

Dr. Hernandez-Lugo’s record of community involvement is equally impressive. She currently serves as the chair of the Hispanic Advisory Group at NASA and has been a panelist at both the Women of Color in Technology Conference and the Service Employment Redevelopment (SER) national Annual Conference. As a member of Ohio Latinas, she serves on the board of Lorain El Centro, and she leads Boy Scouts local Troop 153.