On July 12, 2012, we met with Mr. Tom Benson at the Manhattan Deli in North Olmsted to hear a lecture on the various events and vicissitudes that have helped shape his career path. Mr. Benson was born and raised in Columbus Ohio, living just a mile or so away from Ohio State University campus. Even from early on when he was still in grade school, Mr. Benson had a strong interest in airplanes and space flight. He built and launched several model rockets with his brother during the same time as NASA’s Mercury project was getting ready to launch John Glenn into orbit around the earth.
In high school, Mr. Benson aggressively pursued science, math, and English. He entered Ohio State University in 1965 to major in electrical engineering, but soon switched out into aeronautical engineering. He graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. His thesis project was a computational study of the blood flow in the circulatory system of the body, with an emphasis on the flow in the capillaries.
In 1971, Mr. Benson was enlisted to serve in the military, and he chose to pursue an engineering position at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio. He worked as an experimental aeronautics engineer in the Inlet Aerodynamics group of the Aeronautical Systems Division. This involved the performance assessment for the inlets of the F-16 and B1-A, among others.
In 1975, Mr. Benson decided to return to Ohio State University to work on his PhD. During this time he applied to NASA to be selected for the astronaut program, but was not chosen. Postponing graduation, he then got a job at NASA Glenn Research Center (then known as NASA Lewis) where he worked on the computational analysis of supersonic flows through aircraft inlets mostly simulating hypersonic flight conditions amongst other things. After many years in Aeronautics, he switched to Space and continued his computational fluid dynamics analyses, albeit in a very different setting (most notably incompressible flow vs. formerly compressible flow). In closing, he left us with some words of advice as to similar decision making and challenges we will have to deal with throughout our future careers, and wished us the best of luck for the future.