LSU Alumna Launches Dreams into Space

2002 Grad Working on NASA’s Artemis Mission

LSU in NOLA: K. Renee Horton

BATON ROUGE - Artemis, NASA’s newest lunar exploration program aimed at putting the first American woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, will have LSU’s fingerprints all over it.

LSU graduate K. Renee Horton serves as the NASA Space Launch System Quality Engineer, where she oversaw engine installation on the Artemis.

“There’s a lot of LSU love going into space with Artemis. That just gave me chills thinking about it,” Horton said.

Horton received her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from LSU in 2002 and was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in materials science with a concentration in physics from the University of Alabama in 2011. The Baton Rouge-native’s love for science and space started as a young girl.

“I got a telescope and that really triggered me wanting to be in space, wanting to know about it, and wanting to be an astronaut,” Horton said.

But those dreams of becoming an astronaut were forced to change, after a physical for the Air Force found discovered significant hearing loss.

“It was the LSU Hearing Center who helped me accept my hearing loss, get me fitted for my hearing aids and learn about adaptations I could use in my classes,” Horton said.

Horton’s journey at LSU actually started in the 1980s.

“I started college in the late ‘80s and was in the cross-enrollment program from Southern University to LSU. And then I got pregnant, got married, had a family, traveled, divorced and came back home. But I went back to school after 10 years and started LSU again in 2000,” she said.

She said her daughter motivated her to finish and receive her degree.

“I thought for her to have what she wanted in the world, I needed to get off my butt and be able to make an impact in the world, and it drove me back to school,” she said.

After finishing her LSU degree in two years, Horton decided to continue her education in graduate school, leading her to a fellowship at NASA.

“That fellowship opened that door back up and allowed me to be at NASA during the summer. Just walking back onto a facility, it was a burning desire to finish up and by the grace of god, NASA called me with a job,” Horton said.

Horton shares her LSU pride while working at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, wearing an LSU hard hat, used during the construction of Patrick F. Taylor Hall. She said it sparked other NASA employees to sport their own alma maters, even creating an SEC rivalry in the factory.

“It gives me a lot of pride to be able to walk the factory with my hat on,” she said. “Because I know it’s my time at LSU that made this possible – it was that opening of the door. Being able to have my family on campus with me, being able to make it affordable for me to do that, LSU gave me my second chance. I just want to be able to show the pride that I have in it.”

In addition to her work inside the NASA facility, Horton travels around Louisiana without outreach and educational work through her book, “Dr. H Explores the Universe.”

“It’s a kids book series where we go to the planets, the constellations, the moons and then the dwarf planets. The character is based off of me, so she is also hearing impaired in the book,” Horton said. “We created the book for diversity reasons – so that kids can see people that look like them, and people who don’t look like them, can do amazing things. I’m here in Louisiana because I want to be able to make an impact here, make a change in our state, so when our kids are coming up, they know what they want to do is possible."

To read more about LSU's accomplishments and alumni, visit our accolades website.



Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations