(from the Lead FDO Console Handbook)
Fireballs have been provided by the FDOs for many years and the reasons we do this have been difficult to determine.
The earliest known formal delivery of Fireballs to the control center was May 4th, 1989 for STS-30. The delivery was made by the Orbit 1 FDO. After STS-30, it was adopted that the “Deploy TRAJ” continue to be responsible for providing a box of Fireballs each mission.
You see, back in those days, upper-stage deploy missions were the bread and butter of Shuttle missions. Mir and the International Space Station were something from Tomorrowland. We figured that we would always have a deploy TRAJ for the foreseeable future. In the rare scenario where a deploy was not performed (and let’s be honest, we’re not talking GAS cans, micro sats, CROs, ODERACS, or other such wimpy deployables, we talking large, massive IUSs or PAMs here!), then the co-lead FDO would continue the tradition.
But why the delivery you ask? Well, it turns out that a young lady in repro, named Karen (last name unknown), began distributing Fireballs around the STS-26 timeframe. Karen had a rather bubbly and effervescent personality and had red to orange hair (perhaps from eating too many Fireballs). Karen would, on occasion, give out Fireballs along with the reproduction orders that she delivered to the MCC.
The Fireballs were a big hit with the Flight Controllers who also used them as “attaboys” for their backroom support. It was also clearly evident that Fireballs helped considerably in “situational awareness” during the long hours between midnight and 7 AM.
Additionally, the Orbit FDO group lead (“Doc”) also brought over to console from time to time the very same Fireballs. But the supply of Fireballs was only through the good graces of Doc and Karen, the repro lady.
Sometime prior to STS-30, it was decided by the Orbit FDOs that an entire box of Fireballs be delivered for the mission.