It’s 4 am on Saturday morning. My goal is to stay up until 8 am. It will be easy; I love to be awake and active in the quite of the night. So why am I going for a 24 hour day? Well, I have to transition to the night shift this weekend because next week I am working 12a to 8a. In Mission Control. It will be my first full week as an OJT (On the Job Trainee). This is my next step in my training and I could not be more excited. I knew before I finished my undergraduate's degree that I wanted to be a Flight Director. I planned my entire grad school based on that single dream. I studied MCC every chance I got. I have watched the videos, listen to the loops, read the stories. Anything I could get my hands on, I wanted it. I wanted to sit in that room. And now, I have it.
6 Months ago I was offered my dream job; a chance to work in NASA Mission Control and support the ISS. I have loved space since I was a tot and I was 12 when I decided that my life would revolve around the goal of working for human space flight. It took 18 years to get from that wide eye 12 year old that joined an astronomy club to the 30 year old Nerd working her dream job. 18 years. But I am here.
With my first week ahead of me in MCC (Mission Control Center) sitting on console, I feel somewhat nostalgic, or maybe that is because it is 4 am and infomercials are boring. Either way, what a ride.
My first experience with Mission Control happened when I was 14. The Academy II MOCR for the Enterprise shuttle simulator at Space Camp Huntsville. I was the OTC/Capcom officer for one of our missions. While it was not the cool shuttle, I did like being in Mission Control over being in the station.
My next experience came a year later at 15, at the Falcon’s Mission Control room, at the Future Astronaut Training Program at the Kansas Cosmosphere. This time I jumped at the opportunity to support some of the missions from the MCC and every time I landed in the Capcom role. I was really starting to enjoy that role.
So When I went home I started to read up on Mission Control more. I started by reading biographies of the people that set us on the moon, the people that created the Mission Control concept. I very soon was introduced to a man named Gene Kranz. I was captivated and inspired. Kranz became a very real role model to me, right next to Dr. Wernher von Braun and Captain Janeway.
I’d go onto one more year of space camp at age 16 and once again worked the flight control team as capcom during some of the missions. This time I would make my way to JSC with the camp and squealed in delight to stand at the Flight Directors spot in the Apollo Mission Control to pose for a photo, just like my idol. I would continue my time in high school and start College still thinking my only option would be an astronaut. I did not give it a thought that Mission Control was an option. But I continued to collect books about Mission Control and found it utterly fascinating.
Half way through my undergraduate, I realized that I was not a full on scientist and I was not a full on engineer, I was somewhere in the middle. I love both science and engineering, was working on the degrees, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to be at the crossroads of the two, where policy and logistics are implemented and created. I wanted to be a cog in a massive think tank that would make the two worlds work together seamlessly. I wanted to be in operations.
I started to adapt my thinking of the future and my plans for college classes. My PR minor came in part because of my love of outreach but also this desire to be a leader in the program and policy side. I knew going into my grad school at UND that I wanted to study operations. 3 years I read every book, every article, and ever journal that I could find about Mission Control. The concepts, its history, its key players, both manned and unmanned styles. Every inch of it.
All that research would culminate in multiple mini research projects on various aspects of Mission Control and then my big independent research. ‘The Organization of Mission Control during Manned Surface Exploration of Mars’ –
I have immense pride over that body of work. And I would love to continue the topic when I go for my PhD. In fact, I have a real chance to actually help and be a part in Mars Mission Ops Concepts because of the time I am entering the job! I have already talked about that with my manager and branch chief. I want what I do today to set me up for my long term mission ops goals.
I spent well over 10 years actively studying everything I could about MCC and next week it becomes 100% real. After years of listening to the loops from NASA TV and staring at that room I will be an active part of its history and future. I will be on the loops; I will be in that room.
Ironically, the room that I stared at for years is about to be retired. And a new room is about to take over. I am grateful that I had a few chances to spend time on console in the old room and I am thrilled to be a part of the new beginnings in the new room. What a great time to be starting my career at MCC.
My love of Mission Control has taken me all over the US. I have been inside the Old Mercury launch bunkers and Mercury control center. I have been to SpaceX’s MCC, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and GPM control rooms at Goddard, the famed JPL control room that operates many of the most famous robotic exploration missions to date. I worked the Ames Science Backroom during an Artemis test and sat in while Ames walked the ISS astronauts though a spheres activity. And now I have been into every control room at Houston. It’s fantastic! I can’t wait to see what we do next and I can’t wait to see what I get to do to be a part of it.
*I even made my sister Tasha go to a interactive theater based on Apollo 13!!!!
But in the mean time I am focused on my training flow so I can get certified as fast as possible. I am also working on a few minor side projects on my own free time related to my time at JSC. I have jumped into activities, groups, and programs that I hope will be a great tool to set a foundation that I can build on and work towards my ultimate goal of becoming a Flight Director for our Journey to Mars! On2Mars!
Nerds; Please, Never give up on a passion or dream. It might get bumpy and you may have some failures, but never give up. I had my share of downs but I made it. If I can be here at MCC then you can do it too. I will never be able to describe the feeling of walking into the Mission Control room for the first time, It did not feel real. Everyone should experience that feeling at least once in life.