The most rewarding part of my job is helping to resolve employment matters in a way that fully engages all parties in reaching an acceptable solution. As with any employer, sometimes disputes and conduct or performance concerns arise in the workplace. When they do, I work closely with the parties or their representatives to identify an appropriate way to address the issue. Through this process, I’ve found that openness, fairness, and listening to all perspectives are essential.
When I talk to people about my work at NASA I tell them, “I break moon rocks for a living!” This sounds totally outrageous given the preciousness of the Apollo sample collection, but it is a great way to grab the interest of the public so that I can talk about NASA and my job as a member of the lunar curation team.
JSC pioneered astromaterials curation through their work with the Apollo collection. We now curate all of NASAs astromaterials, with samples from Mars, the sun, asteroids, comets, other stars, and space-exposed hardware with embedded micro particles. It always surprises people that the Apollo samples continue to be such a vital component of planetary research. As new technologies emerge, we find new ways to extract data from the samples to fuel new scientific discoveries.
Having a better understanding of other planets through these samples, helps us design crewed missions, and hopefully those crewed missions will return more samples!
I started full time in February 2015. My primary role is to help the program plan ahead from an integrated cost, schedule and risk perspective. Over the last two years, I have been able to see the progress that NASA and our commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, have made and the challenges that they have had to overcome. I get to see how these two unique companies, with two distinct spacecraft, are able to make progress towards flying astronauts on American soil, and I like knowing that my job is a small part of that.
International Space Station
As a program analyst for the International Space Station Program I create the plan the program uses to status costs. To me, numbers tell a story. I can tell where there are questions or what’s going on in certain areas based on the numbers. It’s understanding why we’re under or over and documenting those risks. That’s why I’m always answering questions as to why something isn’t spending how we planned to spend. I’m doing my part to protect the program, to make sure it’s maintained, and to communicate the cost information to anyone at HQ or when they get questions from Capitol Hill. I love NASA and couldn’t see myself working anywhere else. In a basic way, we’re able to help people. It’s not just engineering. It’s the human desire to want to help, to reach out to your neighbor, to say I want something better for you, so I’m going to do all this work to better your life.
I’m an electrical engineer for the ISS Electrical Power System (EPS) Team in the Engineering Directorate’s Power Systems Branch. I work in the ISS Power Lab, where we test and certify anything that plugs into the ISS power system to make sure it’s compatible and meets our requirements. I also work console in the Mission Evaluation Room (MER) where we ensure our systems are nominal. When problems occur, we coordinate with other MER teams, the flight controllers, and our technical experts to build procedures, test them out in the building 9 mock-up facility and practice before we hand them off to the crew. Turnaround can be very short, so it takes a lot of coordination and teamwork to get everything back to normal. The crew is depending on you and it’s a large amount of responsibility, but it’s really rewarding. This is my dream job; I love being able to work on things that fly in space.
As a planetary scientist with the Mars research group, I’m most excited for “Mars 2020,” which is the next rover that will launch in 2020 and land in early 2021. It's my first time as the project manager for a flight component. We are building the calibration target that will go on the faceplate of the rover.
This is my first flight hardware experience of building flight hardware from start to finish. I am a geologist; I mostly speak science, but I am learning engineering language: how they speak, how they think, the requirements that they need. This has been a real learning experience for me.
And, hopefully, I get the satisfaction of seeing this thing on the surface of Mars and saying “I built that.” I am looking forward to that.
Human Research Program
I work in the JSC Reimbursable Accounting Group. When a customer comes to NASA to have work done – say testing at one of our labs – they have to reimburse us for the work that we're doing, at cost. Often, it's for our unique capabilities, like the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, or the Super Guppy. Technical people tell us what they need, and it's our job from a budget and accounting perspective to provide guidance, resources and tools to meet the requirements that enable the partnership. I may not be pushing the button to send a human or satellite to space, but we enable others to do their jobs successfully.
I didn't grow up knowing much about NASA, but from my first day as a co-op, I fell in love with it. I think the possibilities as an accounting/ finance/ business person are endless because you get to learn the technical work and still do your own job. That’s what makes this career choice a lot of fun.
I’ve been surprised after coming into ops how much I’ve enjoyed receiving and conducting training. When I teach a class - whether I’m training other flight controllers, a CAPCOM (capsule communicator), flight directors from any of our control centers around the world, or crew - I get excited about going and teaching that class. They’re fun and I want to make them enjoyable for everybody while transferring the knowledge and skills that the students need. It’s been a really rewarding time for me to be able to conduct some of that training. It lets me have that human interaction with people outside of the flight loops and it helps us collaborate better because we have a shared experience. Training is so important for crew. When you start talking about deep space exploration it’s even more important because we’re not going to be able to have real time communications with the crew. We’re going to be falling back less on our operational products if the crew has questions and more on our training.
Being able to do photography in an environment I am passionate about has been incredible. From when I started in 1999, it has been a wild ride, to experience the manned spaceflight program in its different iterations of development: from the hustle and bustle of the shuttle program, the build-up to space station, the trauma of the Columbia accident, and then the Return to Flight effort. As a photographer, I was in Mission Control during Columbia, and being locked in that room for an hour was surreal, especially with my responsibility to document that for posterity. Afterwards, documenting the recovery effort was a whole new challenge; it was documenting things I would never think to document. I feel a weight because my job is important: I want people to look at my pictures and see what I was able to see.
I spend much of my day in the Microbiology Laboratory supporting International Space Station operations and the Human Research Program as the Microhost risk discipline scientist. I am currently supporting the Microbial Monitoring System hardware which was selected as part of the JSC 2X2015 hardware demonstration projects. The astronauts are running tests inside the space station to compare the functionality of a commercial molecular microbial identification technology to ground-based controls. As part of the flight preparation, I tested the reagent pouch to make sure the vacuum pressure was going to hold in a zero gravity environment.
I was able to confirm this test by conducting the experiment in a simulated zero gravity environment on a parabolic flight which provided a weightless state in several 20-30-second intervals. The ability to test in a zero gravity setting helps to verify the capability of different functions of the hardware.
Working at JSC is exciting in that I have the opportunity to make a difference, to challenge myself, and to both teach and learn from others as we share an important wealth of knowledge. It was thrilling to have the opportunity to witness my experiment launch successfully on SpaceX-9. It is equally fulfilling for me to have the opportunity to work on multiple projects with diverse groups of people every day.
Currently, I work in thermal technology development for extravehicular activity (EVA) portable life support systems, as well as managing and coordinating thermal technologies for the Orion crew module. I grew up enamored with the space program, as many children do. So when NASA happened to be at my college career fair, I went to ask about NASA swag. Next thing I knew, I had an interview for the co-op program. Since then, I’ve used my Biomedical Engineering degree to work in thermal technology development for human spaceflight. When I think back on my career here, a key moment for me was when I had the opportunity to hear Gene Kranz speak at a co-op lecture. That was the moment I realized that where I work produces very high-caliber people. It also drove home the facts that you need to be good at what you do; you need to care about what you do; and you have to be sure that you are putting your best effort forward.
I am a certified manned test director. I manage and conduct thermal and vacuum tests of hardware, including space suits and life support systems. Before astronauts fly, they come to our facilities, don the flight unit of their spacesuit, and go through training exercises while at vacuum to make sure they're proficient in using the suit in a vacuum.
I love how there are so many opportunities at JSC outside of your job. For example, I’ve interpreted press conferences for Italian astronauts Paolo Nespoli, Roberto Vittori, Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti for real-time airing. In my free time, I’m a group exercise instructor at Starport, the wellness and recreation center here. I’m also a fitness trainer and coach. I've found that this is a passion of mine, to help people achieve their goals. I feel like when people are happier with themselves, every aspect of their life improves, so it's a win-win scenario.
When I was four years old in Korea, everyone gathered at my house to witness man walking on the moon. In high school in Hawaii, my friends would say, “you will probably end up working at NASA.” It has been my dream ever since. I manage two important contracts that maintain our comfort and environment at JSC,
Sonny Carter Training Facility and Ellington Field. I am proud when my teams receive many compliments for a job well done. I believe if everybody is doing their job without having to worry about their comfort in their offices and labs, they can do their job well.
When I was in third grade, the shuttle launch of STS-3 really sparked a fire in me. At that moment, I said, that’s what I want to be a part of. When Challenger happened, I was in junior high school, and it made me think that maybe I didn’t want to do that anymore, but something still smoldered inside. I saved a lot of babysitting money and sent myself to Space Camp when I was sixteen. Space Camp was fabulous because it helped me figure out how to get involved at NASA. That’s when I began to explore engineering as a potential career and major at school.
I’m currently on rotation to the Commercial Crew Program. I felt it was important to learn about NASA’s new way of doing business, and I think this is how we’re going to continue to do things in the future. I also wanted to learn about Dragon and CST-100 and be part of regaining the capability to launch our crew from U.S. soil again.
I immigrated to the United States from Vietnam 20 years ago. I really appreciate America’s open arms to give us a chance to live and work here. I knew about the space program in Vietnam, but we did not have opportunities like this. I feel so lucky to work at NASA. I take a lot of care in my work, because just one broken stitch can affect the safety of an astronaut in space. Their job is very important, so I’m thankful to have a hand in helping them.
As a softgoods specialist, I design and fabricate a wide range of things that travel into space such as thermal blankets that protect sensitive camera equipment, medical research kits, inflatable bladders and more. Sewing is only one aspect of my job; I also fabricate using our laser cutter, radio frequency sealing machine and thermal impulse sealing machines. It’s exciting to come to work, because there is always something new that challenges me and my teammates to learn and to be as creative as we can be.
I have worked at Johnson Space Center more than 41 years, both in the Shuttle and International Space Station programs multiple times, among others. Over the past eight years, I supported the Flight Operations Directorate (FOD). Working so closely with FOD, I was allowed access to the Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and the deck at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. As a result, I'm asked to do a lot of tours here.
I just want to spread the word about NASA as much as possible. Most people don’t realize how much NASA contributes to everything we do, even the routine things. We have improved things like firefighter uniforms, food safety, and even better software which are helping people across the globe. If I can help people see the cool things we do here, and how those things improve their everyday lives, even if it is one person at a time, I feel like I have accomplished something.
It is a challenge and a privilege to apply my food science expertise to feeding astronauts in microgravity and I have found it to be very fascinating and rewarding to make this contribution to the space program. As a scientist, I feel like I’m making a contribution to a very unique application and aspect of science…space exploration. It’s important to me that I’m a part of a scientific endeavor that is lasting and ongoing, the human exploration of space.
I love the challenge. I cannot turn a challenge down. When something happens, and they’re like, “There’s no way we can fix it, or there’s no way it can happen,” I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m going to try to make it happen. Sometimes I get recognized, sometimes I don’t, but at the same time, it’s like, don’t ever say it can’t be done. It can be done, just gotta find a way to do it. At the same time, I have a lot of people come up to me and say we don’t have this or don’t have that. I say, I’ll be back, I’ll go find it. Try to prove to them that, it can be found, you can do it, here you go. And they continue their testing, so it’s really neat.
I'm ex-military, and I started out as an accountant, got bored, did some Army reconnaissance, served in Desert Storm on the front line, received two Army commendations and the Bronze Star. After leaving the military, I came to work for JSC. I've been here a total of 23 years.
I work in the Water Chemistry Lab in Building 7. We do a lot of wet chemistry analysis as well as flight hardware. We focus a lot on urine processing for the different applications on the International Space Station, and we do activated carbon and resin development for the Activated Carbon Ion Exchange or ACTEX cartridges that are used onboard station for the various projects or instrumentation. The ACTEX cartridges are used to remove iodine and iodide from water that’s used for drinking and hardware.
A division chief once said that if you couldn't do a spacewalk, there's no point in being in space. A lot of work we do allows them to be able to do that, so it's critical. I think everything about my job is my favorite, to be honest, because with the chemistry, it's a challenge every day.
I developed a friendship with astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren. When he was onboard the International Space Station, he ended up calling me on my birthday. It was really cool. He worked it all out and it was a total surprise for me, totally out of the blue, and I enjoyed having the moment to talk with him. It brought home how my job contributes to the overall effort…
Right now we are looking at concepts that might come after the space station. My current focus has been looking at habitats in the “proving ground,” or the vicinity of the moon. I have had the opportunity to work with international partners as to what that habitat might look like and what we might do with it. Doing this mission planning makes me wonder if, in 10 years, Kjell will be the astronaut who is actually there.
My favorite project is the primary project that I am working on called NASA@work, an Agency-wide program. I develop and facilitate the NASA@work Challenges by connecting people to solutions through crowdsourcing.
To prepare a new challenge, I collaborate with different program and project teams, such as Orion, International Space Station, the Human Research Program and JSC Engineering and help them run their challenges on the NASA@work platform to reach over 16,000 NASA@work community members. The result—innovative solutions to problems and challenges.
The Odor Control and Trash Containment Challenge for the Orion Program is a cool example of a challenge that has had a positive impact. This challenge captured a potential solution that could enable substantial mass/volume savings. It was pretty amazing to see how people looked at the problem differently. For example, instead of having two containers for containment, why not have one?
I love that JSC in particular has fostered Inclusion and Innovation. If we can’t deal with it here on earth, what can we do outside this planet? I’m proud to work here because JSC is discussing these issues. I cannot take off being a woman or being black when I pass through the gates. Having a Center Director that understands that says a lot about the culture she’s trying to foster here and the culture that all of JSC is trying to support.
We’re the hybrid reality lab – hybrid reality is any mix of physical and virtual reality. And in the middle, you’ve got hybrid reality. We’re looking more toward the side of virtual, augmented with physical objects.
We use this with the International Space Station. When people are onboard the ISS, or put on the headset for the first time, they see the earth. It puts their life into perspective and they have a greater appreciation of life on earth. You can kind of get that from photographs, but not really. You have to be in space to get that, but the immersion that you get from hybrid reality…seeing some of the reactions of people who put on the headset and look out of the cupola windows on the Space Station, their minds are blown. Hearing audibly the person indicate how much that work has affected them on a personal level – it’s very rewarding.
Building 7 is where I come to work every day and I have fun, and get stressed out-- but it's a fun stress, because you know your main goal is to put astronauts in vacuum chambers and test their suits out. Test the integrity and make sure that their training is there and make sure the facility is where it's supposed be as far as breathing air, oxygen, nitrogen, that the test facility is test-ready all the time. It’s challenging all of that-- doing the maintenance. Some days we're working on bicycles or mopping or sweeping, and the next day we've got a crew member in a vacuum chamber and we're testing. My life has made this circle where it came from being a janitor to a technician to a lead, a responsible person, so every time you see a flight go up, or a crew member comes back from space or he's spinning up there or he's training, you're like, "Wow. I had a little part of that," you know? So it's neat. I feel grateful that I did a little something.
Hopefully I’m making it easier for people to get their job done by sharing knowledge and introducing different people to people they might not have met otherwise. Just get the human beings talking to each other! I’m trying to take the walls down between organizations so that we can be successful because the scientists over in the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate might know something that we don’t know over here and we ought to have that open path, that open dialogue. I just want for us to be able to function as a center to get to where we need to go. I see those posters around with the four things for JSC 2.016, and I think the [Engineering] Academy is hitting all four of them. That’s what I’m trying to do - remove the barriers to get people to talk to each other and be successful.
I’m working on models for the universe. One thing that concerns me about Mars are dust storms. I wanted to have a mathematical representation of a dust particle in the storm. It is relevant here also, when you have tornados. A car or something gets lifted; how do we predict the path of that object? I have a mathematical model and we are working on getting it computed now. It’s a tough one because it’s a nonlinear differential equation.
There are two steps here - First step: Does the solution exist? Second step: Find the solution.
Technology drives innovation – that is the connection of my work with this center and the agency. The connection with the rest of the world is technology drives commerce. Luckily I’m involved with both.
Dr. Kumar Krishen
I’m a human factors engineer primarily working on technology for exploration. As you’re designing a new technology, you have to make sure that what you are designing will work for the individual who has to use it. I am always looking for the human first and making sure that the system fits the human’s needs instead of the human having to fit into a system that was not designed for them.
When they did tests on the ISS, they took a picture of a crewmember who was using one of the displays I designed and I thought, ‘I did that!’ They actually interacted with something that I designed. It’s humbling, but it also reminds you why you do what you do which is very rewarding.
There was no one really looking at the whole space network. We haven’t had to communicate with a crewed vehicle on the other side of the moon since the ‘70s. We had to make sure that architecture was in place again. The lead architecture for that function is in FOD because we have the expertise to do it.
We’ve done it with shuttle a gazillion times, and you get into low earth orbit. No problem! We had the space station up there. We’re now getting ready to go to the moon. How do we talk to them now? It’s a “can you hear me now” kind of thing.” We’re making sure that all of that is in place. We need to utilize our ground sites, our LOE space network, and our deep space network.
You use your experience to help people that are trying to figure out a problem, and you can say “Hey, back in the Space Shuttle Program, here’s how we did it. You may want to look at that.” Because you don’t want to completely re-learn every lesson.
We are really focused on developing the next technology for our planetary missions. We are also focusing on the next suit that we want to send to the ISS. If the ISS would get a new suit, what would it look like? How would that support our future planetary missions? How much should we focus towards that particular mobility versus the microgravity mobility, and how do we blend those concepts together?
What I find most exciting about NASA’s future is how many options there are for exploration destinations. It can be intimidating because we don’t know the exact path we’ll be taking to an asteroid or Mars, but I also think that means we have the capability to do so much more than we thought we could do.
In our lab, we have a workbench sitting behind us. If we want to go design and build something, our group is really used to doing that and doing it quickly. We get a lot of good feedback and results from actually making the real system and testing it. I’m fortunate to be able to sit down, design a circuit board, get it printed, and walk a few desks down to someone who will help with mechanical design. We work together very closely to get this things build, and they are real. It’s really rewarding to build real hardware, even if it’s a prototype, even if it won’t be used for ten years. I’ve found that we have learned a lot from building systems.
I spent so much time in the modules before they flew, so when I was a CAPCOM and the crew would call down, and say 'Hey, there's a problem is this location', I could see it in my mind and I could open the panel with them in my mind and know exactly what they were looking at. I've lost a lot of that because it was only the early modules, but it's still a connection I have with the vehicle.
I work flight simulation software for Orion's Launch Abort System. This next test is called the AA2 (Ascent Abort-2), scheduled for late 2018 and will be super cool -- we are taking a commercial rocket with our Orion capsule, launching it, and simulating an in-flight abort. I'm working on that project and can't wait to go out there and see that test happen. This is the only time in my career that I can see it and want to see it.
I'm developing a spaceflight compatible DNA sequencing preparation method to support long duration spaceflight and crew health. Here at NEEMO 21 the crew is testing our "Swab to Sequences" protocol as a first step to future implementation on the ISS.
It's the people at JSC that amaze and inspire me. They are always willing to help! Whether it's about ISS requirements or simple advice on personal/professional development, there is always someone willing to answer. The exciting part about coordinating ISS requirements is getting to meet people who work on different systems and learning about how their systems work.
As an Attitude Determination and Control Officer (ADCO) Flight Controller, I am one of thirty-five people in the world who are lucky enough to "fly" the International Space Station. There's nothing quite like the feeling of maneuvering the ISS in preparation for rendezvous with another visiting spacecraft such as a Soyuz or Dragon.
We call ourselves 'can-onauts'. The test I was in was a 60 day test; it's goal was to look at the regenerative life support systems that were baselined for Station - this was in 1997. We had all our water and air recycled. So urine, shower waste water, condensing heat exchanger and all of our air was recycled. On this test we saw the benefit of working with other science groups, such as SA. We looked at 9 different medical experiments including psychology, exercise protocol, CO2 effects on bone density. We also looked at remote training. If you're going to Mars, what are the best methods to train the crew when there is a communication lag of so much time?