My career with NASA was ending on a high note. I was Lead FDO for the STS-86 mission and the seventh docking between a Space Shuttle and the Russian space station Mir. I had worked every Mir mission to that point, so it was an appropriate way to exit. 🙂
The overall mission had gone without a hitch, as the crew and the team in the MCC had performed their jobs as they had been trained.
On my last day, I had expected the time to pass quickly and quietly, without much in the way of recognition or fanfare.
But… that isn’t what happened. (grin)
It was wonderful, with the FDO logo drawn onto the frosting, with Atomic Fireballs (the FDO console candy of choice!) as decoration!
I was very pleased and surprised by this, but more was to come.
After I gave my briefing, Flight Director Phil Engelauf made a nice speech on the Flight Director loop letting everyone know, if they hadn’t heard already, that this was my last flight and, indeed, my last shift! It was unexpected, and I greatly appreciated his sentiments.
STS-86 FLIGHT DIRECTOR LOOP
After that burn, I expected the last couple of hours to go by slowly and quietly… kind of “riding into the sunset” mode… 😉
I was wrong…
Commander Jim Wetherbee got my attention when he called down on the Air-to-Ground loop with a “Houston, Atlantis… with a question for FDO…”
Needless to say, that got my attention very quickly!
When he followed it up with a “Is it Roger?” question, I knew something else was up!!!
WxBee commented that my “trajectory skills” would be needed on the “field of friendly strife” (football field!), since my beloved ‘Horns were getting beaten that day. It was an audio exchange I’ll treasure forever.
STS-86 A/G LOOP
It is a tradition, also, at the end of a FDO’s last flight, to take one side of the “FDO” sign on top of the console.
In addition to STS-86 being my last flight, it was also the last flight of my good friend, Matt Abbott, who was going to work for the Canadian Space Agency. Matt has since returned to NASA and has enjoyed a successful “second NASA career” as a Flight Director.
Here’s a picture of Matt and me, after STS-86 landed, with our halves of the FDO sign from the MCC! There’s 27 years of FDO-related experience between us, with my 12 and Matt’s 15 years.
I have this FDO sign in my office, framed with a great Shuttle-Mir shot that was signed by all of my co-workers and friends when I retired. It’s one of my most treasured items from that time.
What a great way to finish a long and enjoyable career as a Space Shuttle Flight Controller…