NASA Engineer Dr. K. Renee Horton Overcomes Challenges to Aim for the Stars

K. Renee Horton - Courtesy of NASA

Dr. K. Renee Horton has overcome challenges in becoming a NASA engineer.

One of her professors empowered with negative words, but Horton knew better.

Having graduated high school at 16, she knew her brain was fine. But a hearing disability made it impossible for her to understand the professor’s heavily accented English.

That hearing loss had already eliminated the possibility of becoming an astronaut and led to years of struggle. Instead of being discouraged again, Horton took a hard look at how she would accommodate what she calls her “invisible disability.” The professor’s mistaken judgment proved to be a milestone in redefining her professional aspirations in a society that values conformity.

K. Renee Horton - Courtesy NASA
K. Renee Horton – Courtesy NASA


Now a quality engineer for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – the rocket that will send Artemis astronauts and cargo to the Moon – at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Horton explained that being hard of hearing isn’t a problem – it’s her normal. She doesn’t need to be “fixed,” but she does have to deal with obstacles created by professional conventions designed for people with functional hearing and without physical limitations.

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