My Impromptu Dossier - By Kayla LaFrance
I started this web site while I was looking for a job. Now I live my dream everyday with a job that I absolutely love! I go to work everyday at Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. After 18 years of dreaming and dedication, I now have the joy of working with manned space flight. I currently work as a contractor for NASA in the Flight Operations Directorate. My position as an ISO (Inventory and Storage Officer) Flight Controller for Mission Control allows me to work everyday to support our astronauts onboard the ISS. My future is wide open and I hope to find myself as a Flight Director, finishing my education with a Phd, and helping design the new mission ops concepts for future Mars Missions.
My passion for space exploration and Mars can be called a defining characteristic of who I am. This passion played a role in my recent adventure as part of the cast of the TBS show “King of the Nerds.” During the robot challenge, I designed my robot to reflect my ‘On2Mars’ mentality by mixing design elements from the Sojourner rover with elements from the Mars Exploration Rovers. That rover robot was selected by the judges as their favorite of the competition. I was considered the Rocket Scientist on that show and was tested daily in some interesting and stressful ways; my team won nearly every team challenge and I won every individual competition. I went on to win the entire show.
In the year that has followed, I jumped head first into being an active part of the show’s social media presence. I spear headed the #NerdArmy fan group on Twitter, I created the Knights of Nerdvana website, I host weekly hangouts about nerd culture, I have represented the show at conventions from coast to coast, and I even played host to special hangouts that aired after each episode with the newest cast.
A career goal of mine is to share my passion for human space flight and to engage the public in the value of science and technology. I grew passionate for astronomy and space flight at a young age and quickly joined the local astronomy club. While learning the ropes about astronomy and telescopes I would spend a lot of time working the outreach events that the club participated in. From the national Astronomy day to public viewings, I learned that I loved to share with others and to help them find their own excitement and passion for the stars above.
While I was working towards my Master’s degree, my research focus was on the organization of mission control to support human surface exploration on Mars. During my summer internship at NASA Ames, I worked directly with data from the Mars Phoenix Lander while assisting in the preliminary research of a future Mars science package. That internship also allowed me to participate in the Ames Science Backroom during a multi-day field test of RESOLVE payload, as well as sit in on communications with the ISS during a SPHEREs experiment.
Not all of my time at work and school has been focused on the technical side of space. Along with volunteering with local astronomy groups, I have spent a summer at the US Space and Rocket Center working as a counselor for Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. I added a Public Relations minor to my undergraduates program to better understand how to share my love of space, and I worked a year as a part time presenter for the Adventure Science Center’s Sudekum Planetarium.
I have the ability to work in teams or on my own projects, to work in dynamic environments, to multi-task, adapt to changes, work under deadlines, and to deal with a wide range of situations, including when I found myself competing—and winning—the TBS reality show competition King of the Nerds. I am quick at learning new skills and software, detail oriented and a hard working individual. I earned a Master’s of Science in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota. Before that, I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Physics and minors in Mathematics and Public Relations from Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
I have a strong sense of determination when it comes to exploration and continuing my own knowledge of the world around me. One of my hobbies includes working on the restoration and preservation of antique vehicles. This has taught me how to use a wide range of tools and to understand the basics behind mechanics and engineering. When working on cars and trucks that are sometimes more than 80 years old, there are many times when you have to become creative in how to approach a problem, and to use tools in new ways.