I was fortunate enough to have spent 12 years working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a Flight Dynamics Officer in the Space Shuttle Mission Control Center.

While I no longer work for NASA, the goals of the space program are still very dear to me.

I remember the astronauts who put their lives on the line every mission to further man’s exploration of the unknown, and, perhaps more importantly, the hundreds of dedicated men and women who work behind the scenes every mission.

MODThese people perform the pre-flight training, Flight Design, and, as I did for so many years, the real-time Flight Control.  They included the administrative staff – our amazing secretaries and office managers.  We couldn’t have done half of what we did without them!  JSC was a self-contained campus – we had amazing operations staff onsite and several cafeteria options (although it was always fun to hit some of the local spots for lunch, too!).  Everyone who worked to support – either directly or indirectly – was a hero to me.  The dedication and commitment of each person, making up part of smaller and larger teams, all with the same goal in mind … that is something I’ll never forget.

I was one of the fortunate few to have been selected as a Flight Controller.  As part of the Mission Operations Directorate, we had been providing the oversight, monitoring, planning, guidance, and control for every manned mission since the Mercury Program.

With the advent of the much more complex Space Shuttle, the role of Mission Control became more and more critical.  Since I left, the roles have expanded to full-time International Space Station control and exciting new programs that are resuming both NASA and commercial manned launches. 

One line of the Flight Controller’s Creed reminds us to

always be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences

That one phrase shows that the dedication and commitment shown by those in Mission Control has to be (and is!) beyond reproach.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have our fun times in the MCC.

The laughs and shared experiences among the Flight Controllers were key elements in what forged the strong team bonds that got us through difficult times in training, challenging aspects of Mission Operations where we needed to be able trust each other’s decisions without hesitation, and outside of the Control Room where we leaned on each other through good times and tough times.

Roger - at the FDO consoleI was caught on NASA Television more than once when I forgot the cameras were on.

Once – my console-mate had brought in a large fruit tray to share with the team, and our CAPCOM at the time jokingly yelled down to “toss me a strawberry!”. I gladly (and literally) obliged… and then heard through my headset from one of my backroom support team – “Uh… Roger? You were on NASA TV when that happened.

Good thing it was one of the overnight shifts and not too many people were watching. 🙂

I will always remember them fondly, and I wish each and every one the best of luck and continued success.