America Loses a Legend With Death of Chris Kraft

August 1st, 2019

By Mary Alys Cherry

Those were the words of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein as he announced the passing of the legendary Chris Kraft, who was not only NASA’s first flight director, but a man who played a key role in helping build the Johnson Space Center and create the concept of Mission Control, which is housed in the building aptly named the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center.

Kraft died Monday, July 22, just two days after America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, which he helped direct. He was 95.

“Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the Moon, and his legacy is immeasurable,” Bridenstein said. His engineering talents were put to work for our nation at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, before NASA even existed, but it was his legendary work to establish mission control, as we know it, for the earliest crewed space flights that perhaps most strongly advanced our journey of discovery.

“Chris was flight director at some of the most iconic moments of space history, as humans first orbited the Earth and stepped outside of an orbiting spacecraft. For his work, he was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal by President John F. Kennedy. Chris later led the Johnson Space Center, known then as the Manned Spacecraft Center, as our human exploration work reached for new heights following the Apollo Program. We stand on his shoulders as we reach deeper into the solar system, and he will always be with us on those journeys.”

Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as NASA’s first flight director, with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues.

During the Apollo program, he became the director of Flight Operations, responsible for all human spaceflight mission planning, training and execution. After serving as deputy director of the center for three years, he was named JSC director in January 1972 – a post he held until his retirement in August 1982, playing a vital role in the success of the final Apollo missions, the Skylab crewed space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first flights of the space shuttle.

Kraft was born Feb. 28, 1924 in Hampton, Va. After high school, he enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI, now Virginia Tech) and enrolled in mechanical engineering in 1941 but later decided to major in aeronautical engineering. In 1944, he graduated with one of the first degrees in that field awarded by the Institute and was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor organization to NASA. He worked for over a decade in aeronautical research before being asked in 1958, when NASA was formed, to join the Space Task Group, a small team entrusted with the responsibility of putting America’s first man in space.

Kraft was invited by Robert Gilruth to become a part of a new group that was working on the problems of putting a man into orbit. Without much hesitation, he accepted the offer. When the Space Task Group was officially formed on Nov. 5, Kraft became one of the original 35 engineers to be assigned to Project Mercury, America’s man-in-space program.
As a member of the Space Task Group, Kraft was assigned to the flight operations division, which made plans and arrangements for the operation of the Mercury spacecraft during flight and for the control and monitoring of missions from the ground.

Since his retirement from NASA, Kraft has consulted for numerous companies including IBM and Rockwell International, served as a Director-at-Large of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of the Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech. In 2001, he published an autobiography entitled “Flight: My Life in Mission Control.” His book is a detailed discussion of his life through the end of the Apollo program, and was a New York Times bestseller.

He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal; four NASA Distinguished Service Medals; the Distinguished Alumnus Citation from Virginia Tech, in 1965; and the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award for 1996. In 1999, he was presented the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement for which he was cited as “A driving force in the U.S. human space-flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary.”

Chris Kraft married his high school sweetheart, Betty Anne Turnbull, in 1950. They have a son and a daughter, Gordon and Kristi-Anne.

Apollo Mission Control returns to original glory

August 1st, 2019

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein and former Flight Controller Gene Kranz debate how they will cut the ceremonial ribbon to introduce the remodeled Apollo Mission Control. Others with them include JSC Director Mark Geyer and former JSC Director George Abbey, Congressman Brian Babin, State Sen. Larry Taylor, State Rep. Dennis Paul, former Apollo Flight Director Glynn Lunney and Space Center Houston Director William Harris.

The Apollo Mission Control Center has been restored to appear as it did back in that era just as Americans paused to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

“Apollo captured the world’s attention and demonstrated the power of America’s vision and technology, which has inspired generations of great achievements in space exploration, and scientific discovery,” Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer said.

“Our goal 50 years ago was to prove we could land humans on the Moon and return them safely to Earth. Our goal now is to return to the Moon to stay, in a sustainable way. I’m thrilled this facility will be open for the public to view. It is my hope that it will serve as inspiration for generations to come,” he said as the $5 million project was unveiled.

In this facility, NASA flight control teams planned, trained and executed Gemini, Apollo, Apollo/Soyuz, Skylab and Space Shuttle program missions until 1992. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1985, and in 2011, it was renamed the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center in honor of the man who developed the concepts still used today in human spaceflight control.

“By restoring the Apollo Mission Control Center, NASA is preserving the rich history of a remarkable achievement in human spaceflight,” said Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton. “This will not only help share our history with visitors from around the world, but also remind our current employees who are planning missions to send humans back to the Moon and then further to Mars, that anything is possible and we are standing on the shoulders of giants.”

WEBSTER GAVE MOST
Throughout the years, some work was done to partially restore the facility to its Apollo-era configuration, but the full restoration project did not begin until 2017, after five years of planning and fundraising. Space Center Houston, Johnson’s official visitor center operated by the nonprofit Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc., spearheaded an effort to raise the $5 million needed for the project, of which the nearby city of Webster, Texas, donated $3.5 million.

“Thanks to the City of Webster and worldwide support, the treasured landmark is now restored, preserving it for future generations,” said William Harris, president and CEO of Space Center Houston. “We can gain incredible insight through the accomplishments of the Apollo era and the room will continue to inspire people and innovators to chase their dreams.”

NASA cannot accept public donations for restricted purposes, so the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation played an important role in administering funds for this project.

FIRST TIME
“The Mission Control Center restoration project is the first time the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has used the special authority granted to it by the National Historic Preservation Act that enables it to accept private donations and transfer them to other federal agencies for preservation purposes,” said Advisory Council Chairman Milford Wayne Donaldson.

“It is not surprising that NASA, an agency known for achieving the new and exceptional, is paving the way for other agencies to do what they have done – preserve an incredible piece of our nation’s and the world’s history through a unique public-private partnership.”

The restoration team included representatives of the Apollo Mission Control teams that supported astronauts on their missions. Great pains were taken by these individuals to ensure the authenticity of the control room and the artifacts inside. The pieces in the restored control room, visitor’s gallery and adjacent simulation support room are either original artifacts that were cleaned and restored, such as the control consoles and displays, or the items have been recreated based on original samples. This includes paint colors, carpet, coffee mugs, clothing items, and even ashtrays. The artifacts all were placed just as they were 50 years ago.

More than a million visitors from around the world visit Space Center Houston annually and now they will have a chance to view this restored historical site – stepping back in time to the first Moon landing, and looking forward to America’s next Moon landing.

The Longhorn Project at Johnson Space Center

May 2nd, 2019

Proud mentors with the 2018-19 Show Team, LHP’s accomplished youth & leaders of tomorrow. (Back row L-R): Andrea Wilson, Board Chairman; Henry Wilson, Project Manager. (Front row L-R): Brandon Couvillion, Libby Butterfield, Emma Lucas, Quinton Cherry. Photo: Matt Lucas

No place in the galaxy like it. Texas longhorns meet manned space exploration.

Come be a part of the legendary Longhorn Project at Johnson Space Center (LHP). The organization has blended an award-winning Texas longhorn herd with STEM educational and environmental programs with a noteworthy record of achievement for nearly a quarter century. Hundreds of local FFA students have been awarded scholarships on “Show Teams,” raising and exhibiting longhorns across Texas and in bordering states.

In collaboration with NASA scientists, the LHP works with master naturalists, environmental professionals and volunteers to champion sustainability projects, connecting countless high school students with experts on everything from maintaining a 7-acre garden to Aquaculture, inventive landscaping and Agronomy.

The LHP also engaged more than 60,000 local elementary and middle-school students through its STEM-based curriculum.

Founded in 1996 by JSC Center Director George W. S. Abbey, the LHP began with a commitment to making the Center’s resources available to the educational community.
“In his office, Mr. Abbey had a cattle photograph that served as his inspiration in bringing the world-famous longhorns to JSC,” said Andrea Wilson, chairman of the LHP Board of Directors. “In fact, the cattle in that 1960 photo grazed on land owned by the family of James Marion West Sr., co-founder of Humble Oil & Refining Company, that would eventually become the home for NASA JSC.”

“He thought bringing the cattle, native to the state of Texas, to NASA JSC bridged Texas’ past to NASA’s present and America’s future,” she added.

The next step was to dedicate 53 acres of NASA-JSC’s tract of land, adjacent to NASA’s Rocket Park, for the development of a “hands on” agricultural education facility. Subsequent discussions among Abbey, Dr. John E. Wilson, then Superintendent of Clear Creek ISD, the Houston Livestock Show and RodeoTM and the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America resulted in a partnership, developing the first of its kind facility for furthering agricultural education linked to America’s space exploration.

Dr. Sandra Mossman, past Superintendent of Clear Creek ISD, inspired the initiative to incorporate a science curriculum for the district’s third and seventh graders. Lessons include the history, genetics and characteristics of the Texas longhorn, fruit and vegetable cultivation, Aquaculture, recycling technologies and space exploration.

Initially supported by Clear Creek ISD, in 2017 the LHP transitioned to a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, governed by a board of directors overseeing the management and fundraising programs.

Because of the rich educational program developed by Clear Creek ISD and close ties with NASA JSC, the LHP works closely with the school district to ensure its educational program meets Texas state academic standards and is provided to its 3,100 third grade students each year.

“As an independent nonprofit, we’re now able to seek essential funding from sources that may not be available to a school district and extend the educational programs to area school districts and private and home-school organizations,” Wilson said. “Consequently, over the past three years, an additional 2,500 students have participated in the educational programs annually.”

With thanks to a grant provided by the Moody Foundation, more than 1,700 students from Galveston, Dickinson and Santa Fe school districts, and the Odyssey Charter School in Seabrook, attended the field trip program. The AT&T Aspiring Fund allowed 350 high school students from Houston, Pearland and Clear Creek school districts to attend the program as well. The Houston Livestock Show and RodeoTM, one of the founding partners, has provided grants and support to renovate the barn facilities to ensure a safe as well as aesthetically-pleasing educational environment for the students.

“Today, there’s a longhorn trophy steer herd that have made Johnson Space Center their home for the duration of their lives,” Wilson said. “And a show herd of 25 longhorns on loan from members of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.”

Under the direction of project manager, Henry Wilson, a selected team of FFA students care for the trophy steer herd, raising and exhibiting 25 longhorns at numerous livestock and longhorn shows. Through this worthwhile program, the show team students learn about ranch management, animal husbandry and to promote the preservation and legacy of the cattle native to Texas. They also earn scholarship funds by competing in exhibition shows, speech, art, livestock judging, showmanship, photography and Ag Mechanics contests.
Andrea Wilson initiated the Garden, Agriculture, Sustainability and Arts (GASA) program so high school students could earn volunteer hours and connect with nature. For the past three years, students from Clear Horizons Early College High School have assumed GASA’s leadership and self-initiated projects that contribute to the overall educational program.

Bay Area Houston Magazine and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine are proud to sponsor and support The Longhorn Project at Johnson Space Center. There is “No place in the galaxy like it.”

The Longhorn Project is offering unique sponsorship and advertising opportunities. Your investment would help support the growth and development of these educational programs. Like any classroom, we need to replace and renovate end-life equipment and facilities to ensure the safety of the students and ‘lock-in’ the program’s future for generations to come.You, your company, or organization can support or sponsor a longhorn, or The Longhorn Project, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, by contacting Rick Clapp at 281-474-5875 or r.clapp@baygroupmedia.com.

Roll em, roll em, roll em!

Apollo legends see Historic Mission Control unveiled

December 1st, 2018

It was an historic sight – living legends who worked on the Apollo program reunited for a major milestone — the unveiling of restored Historic Mission Control consoles used to send humans to the Moon. The newly restored units arrived in a return flight to Ellington Airport by way of NASA’s Super Guppy.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are leading the restoration of Historic Mission Control and this marked a major milestone in the ongoing campaign to restore a National Historic Landmark before Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.

Designed to carry oversized cargo, the Super Guppy airlifted the consoles from the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kan. Luminaries of the Apollo program — Will Davidson, Ed Fendell, Robert Grilli, Milt Heflin, Denny Holt, James Kelly, Thomas Loe, Glynn Lunney, Merlin Merritt, Bill Moon, Bill Reeves, and Milt Windler – saw the restored consoles for the first time under a hangar at Ellington Airport.

Joining them were JSC Director Mark Geyer, Space Center Houston CEO William T. Harris, plus JSC Apollo Mission Control Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton and Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly.

“We want to keep the legacy of the Apollo-era alive and preserve Historic Mission Control,” said Harris. “Thanks to the combined efforts of so many people, future generations can experience this iconic room exactly as it was when Neil Armstrong made his historic first steps on the Moon.”

Time had taken a toll on the Mission Operations Control Room, used during the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle eras, and it was in acute need of restoration. Furnishings such as carpeting, tile, paperwork, coffee cups and ashtrays in the room are being collected and restored to recreate the appearance of an active Apollo era Mission Control room — how the area looked the moment the first Moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, the control room celebrates human space exploration and inspires people from around the world who visit. Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the City of Webster are working together to restore the room that made what seemed an inconceivable dream become a reality. Webster, a longtime supporter of Space Center Houston, gave a $3.5 million lead gift toward the $5 million restoration byThe Cosmosphere, which is restoring nearly two dozen consoles.

The restored Mission Control Room will be unveiled to the world in time for the Apollo 11 mission’s 50th anniversary and the City of Houston will host a month-long celebration, including a ribbon-cutting for the restored Mission Control room.

“On a Mission” campaign. Space Center Houston then led a 30-day funding campaign drawing more than 4,000 pledges from 15 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The city of Webster matched the crowdfunding campaign gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $400,000 as a component of the lead gift. Current proceeds stand at approximately $4.5 million leaving $500,000 remaining to meet the $5 million On a Mission campaign goal.

The Magnificent Marvels of NASA

November 1st, 2018

NASA’s special 747 carries the shuttle above the Johnson Space Center.
Photo Credit: NASA/ Sheri Locke

Sumer Dene with a Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), which is designed to safely navigate harsh terrain.

By Sumer Dene

Wonder is experienced, it can’t be taught. Through exploration and research, aerospace changes everything. NASA celebrates 60 years of encouraging passionate, dedicated individuals to go above and beyond what they see.

The Johnson Space Center, home of human spaceflight, made Bay Area Houston the thriving waterfront city it is today. Furthermore, NASA is voted year after year the best place to work in the federal government. The International Space Station improves lives through education and innovation to strengthen relationships with academia, government and private sector leaders. The space station is built piece-by-piece in orbit with the help of many nations. The modules are built in separate countries and first meet in space to be assembled. Friday nights at the space station, astronauts and cosmonauts join together to watch movies and share cuisine. They become family with an outlook that reaches beyond our scope.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts enjoy the pre-release of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the International Space Station.

Educating the world
Improved technology in robotics can lead to minimally invasive surgeries, safer cars, and mass harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Robotics engineer Lucien Junkin says, “The purpose of the Robotics Education program is to gather knowledge and spread it to the public. Failures are meant to teach you; the most important philosophy in engineering is safety, commitment and hard work.” Young adults overcome challenges with collaborative effort to reach competitive goals. NASA offers free educational programs and scholarships to help empower education in STEM. The Robotics Education program is in need of young leaders to build the future in technological development.

The highly-respected professionals involved in aeronautics push forward courageously in pursuit of a new frontier. NASA Public Affairs Officer Gary Jordan develops and hosts Houston’s first space podcast, “Houston, we have a podcast.” The podcast discusses many influential aspects of space travel live at Johnsons Space Center. It is released every Friday with various guests, sometimes including astronauts in orbit. Questions can be asked using hashtags #askNASA and #HWHAP on various social media accounts. “NASA shows that we are all connected. We are on the same mission and happy to explore new ways to make our lives better on Earth. It is important to communicate that with the public. Society is shaped by what we do today.” We have come a long way.

What has changed?
In the early 60s, it was easy to imagine space exploration. The lives of people and how they communicated was vastly different. A peaceful movement began to end all wars, remove barriers and expand consciousness through music and language. The youth wanted to end all wars so people would realize we are all parts to a greater whole. Traveling across the galaxy in an intergalactic world to save the human race was something first seen in black and white fantasy films.

NASA developed in 1958 during a crisis in the last “idealist” time in America. Hate, fear and propaganda spread through the use television and radio. Sixty years later, we long to connect, have our voices heard and be a part of something greater than us. Now, our generation faces many more distractions. “Hope” first begins with “Focus.”

NASA is working on robonauts to help human astronauts complete simple, repetitive and dangerous tasks in space.

The Vision
NASA looks forward to the future with a goal to solve pertinent problems and coexist peacefully. Intensive research help people live a better quality life and find answers to meaningful questions. The space center influences medical and technological advances, as well as society’s culture. Dr. Liz Warren is a NASA scientist who investigates how human physiology changes in microgravity. She leads a team to implement experiments in space. Cells change to a spherical, 3D structure and protein crystals grow perfectly in space, leading to a perfect environment for groundbreaking research in all life and physical sciences.

“Our bodies are capable of enduring and adapting to new environments. We explore because we want to push ourselves further to learn, grow and make an impact. We want the next generation to feel inspired.” Space research discovers ways to combat endemic disease, understand how the planet is evolving, and harness energy and resources sufficiently.

Space exploration has helped us understand human psychology. “The Overview Effect” is coined by Frank White as the cognizant shift in awareness some astronauts experience when viewing earth from the lunar surface. He describes space exploration as the “inevitable steps in the evolution of human society and consciousness.” On Earth, conflicts and differences divide people as our navigation system judges distance from our feet to the ground. Astronauts see 16 sunsets and sunrises each day and orbit earth every 90 minutes. In space, distance is measured expansively as the speed of light. There are no borders to separate the universe and humankind, opportunities are limitless when we work together on a mission.

JSC director Geyer speaks of America’s space leadership role today, in the future

October 1st, 2018

By Mary Alys Cherry and Kathryn Paradis

Knowing the human tendency to overlook the value of many outstanding things in our daily lives – things that become “old hat” – Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer reminded Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership members of the great value of the International Space Station, which has been circling the Earth for the past 18 years.

“Station is an incredible international achievement,” he said as he opened his address, “and I want to talk about the different pieces that make ISS so special. People may not be aware of the details surrounding the amount of utilization that is happening every day on Space Station.

“There are payload experiments – things we are pushing the envelope on – on how to live and work in space, which is really going to be important when we go to the moon and on to Mars. A Mars journey could take three years or longer. We’re learning about how the human body behaves and how it changes. We’re learning how to mitigate those things through exercise and nutrition. There’s an incredible amount of work that goes on every day; plus, we get some cool pictures!”

It also has helped the United States and Russia become space buddies, he explained.

Their space friendship began back at the turn of the century when the first international crew, commanded by American astronaut William M. Shepherd, arrived on a Russian Soyuz that launched on Oct. 31, 2000. Since that day, he said there has always been an American onboard Station.
“Station brings a symbol of national leadership in the world. We lead the rest of the world in space. I had a chance to meet with the U.S. ambassador in Russia when I was over there for a launch. He told me that as difficult as relationships are with the Russians, Space Station is the one thing, the one positive thing that we are doing together. That’s important.”

Then he cautioned, “Another thing to remember is that if the United States doesn’t lead in space, there’s another county that cannot wait to lead in space, and that’s China. We know that they are making efforts to do that.”

After briefly talking about the commercialization of space, he took the crowd into the future — the commercial opportunities the ISS offers and plans to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s to launch the Orion spacecraft on 21-day missions past the moon and back. And, how JSC will continue to be a key part of the integration of that program.

And, what about new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine? “He is extremely personable and very open, Geyer says. “He really likes to meet with teams and talking with the interns. He’s trying very hard, listening to people. I love working for him; he’s a great guy.”

Geyer, who was introduced by BAHEP Chairman and San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, began his NASA career in 1990 at JSC and has been here ever since. He has witnessed much during the ensuing years – both triumph and tragedy. His presentation left many with the feeling, however, that the best is yet to come both for NASA and for Johnson Space Center.

NASA assigns first crews to fly commercial spacecraft

September 1st, 2018

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana addresses the standing room only crowd at JSC’s Teague Auditorium as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer look on.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“We’re back,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a rousing audience in the Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium.

“This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know that we’re back – that we’re flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” he said as the crowd’s roar reached heights probably not heard around JSC in years.

Sweet words to everyone’s ears, especially the nine astronauts who were introduced as America’s first commercial crew astronauts – those who will help increase commercial companies’ involvement in low Earth orbit and possibly take over operation of the space station some day in the future and allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration.

A NEW ERA
“Today,” Bridenstine continued, “our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp. This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

Joining him on stage for the presentation were Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Boeing Defense, Space and Security CEO Leanne Caret and SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell, who each spoke briefly of their hopes for the future before the new NASA chief introduced the astronauts – five who will fly on Boeing’s Starliner and four who will man SpaceX’s Dragon.

NASA introduced the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station – an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. The nine astronauts introduced to crew Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are, from left, Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

NASA intern and University of Texas student Stephanie Zeller shares a light moment with Sen.Ted Cruz, one of a number of elected officials at the ceremony at JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

“All of us are here today because we stand for something new and profound, built upon an amazing legacy, and it is personal for all of us,” Boeing executive Leanne Caret said. “Today we start a new chapter, and we’re so thrilled to be on this journey.” Both companies bring unique approaches and ideas to the development and testing of their systems, which is why NASA selected both companies in September 2014.

“The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor this was for us to be part of this program, and for us to fly [NASA astronauts],” said SpaceX executive Gwynne Shotwell. “So thank you very much, we take it seriously, we won’t let you down.”

SEVERAL APPEARANCES
The stage presentation was one of several appearances by Bridenstine during a three-day visit to JSC. On his first morning, the 43-year-old Michigan native got a up-close look at the Orion mockup that is being readied for its major safety test in April to verify that its launch abort system can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during ascent for deep-space missions.

Next, he met with a select group of local reporters, answering a variety of questions about the future of the space station, the Gateway moon orbiting project that involves returning to the moon and is seen as a stepping stone to Mars, and the delays on the James Webb Telescope.

“NASA is doing things it has not done before, using government resources never done before,” he told reporters in a sit-down roundtable session, “and we want to be sure we do not have another gap.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, looks over the work being done in Building 9S at Johnson Space Center for the launch of the Orion mockup.

Bridenstine started his visit here at a reception at Space Center Houston where he addressed aerospace executives, local business people and elected officials, discussing a change in national space policy providing for an American-led integrated program with private sector partners for a return to the moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The new policy, he said, calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

Bridenstine emphasized the importance of the word “sustainable” in the policy. He said, “When we talk about going to the moon, this time to stay, we want the entire architecture between Earth and the moon to be sustainable — in other words ‘reusable.’ We want tugs that are going back and forth from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit to be reusable. We want the lunar landers to be reusable so that they can go back to the surface of the moon over and over again.

“That entire architecture is going to be built on an American backbone. We will have critical infrastructure developed by NASA, by those in this room and at Johnson Space Center, that will give us a sustainable infrastructure on the moon… When we go to the moon this time, we’re going to stay.”

NASA names six new JSC flight directors

September 1st, 2018

2018 Class of Flight Directors: Allison Bolinger, Pooja Jesrani, Adi Boulos, Paul Konyha, Rebecca Wingfield, Marcos Flores. Photo Date: July 9, 2018. Location: Building 30s, WFCR. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

NASA has selected six women and men to join the elite corps of flight directors who will lead mission control for a variety of new operations at the agency’s Johnson Space Center here.

Already the new flight directors are beginning extensive training on flight control and vehicle systems, as well as operational leadership and risk management, before they will be ready to sit behind the flight director console in mission control supporting NASA’s astronauts. When they do, they will become part of a group that numbers fewer than 100. This class will bring the total number of flight directors the agency has had to 97 since Christopher C. Kraft became the first flight director in 1958.

“This is an outstanding group of future tactical leaders for the Flight Operations Directorate,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “We are excited to have them come on board.”

Joining the 26 active flight directors currently guiding mission control, this group will have the opportunity to oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, including integrating American-made commercial crew spacecraft into the fleet of vehicles servicing the orbiting laboratory, as well as Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon and beyond.

“The job of flight director is not an easy one, and we make these selections very carefully,” said Holly Ridings, acting chief of the Flight Director Office at Johnson. “We had a great group of applicants, so we were able to choose six individuals who have worked in many areas of human spaceflight. They’ll bring a lot of good experience to the role that will serve NASA well as we undertake new and exciting missions.”

As flight directors, they will head teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world and make the real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA astronauts safe in space. The new flight directors are:

Allison Bolinger
Bolinger, from Lancaster, Ohio, began her career at NASA as an intern in 2001, before earning her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University in 2004. Upon becoming a full-time NASA employee after graduation, she supported spacewalks in a variety of functions, including as a lead spacewalk flight controller for space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission, and several spacewalks since. Most recently, she has served as the deputy chief of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, managing the facility’s daily operations.

Adi Boulos
Boulos grew up in Palos Hills, Ill., and Fair Lawn, N.J., and holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He began his career at NASA in 2008 and was one of the first flight controllers managing the space station’s core system computer networks in a position, known as Communications RF Onboard Networks Utilization Specialist. In addition to serving as a CRONUS specialist flight controller and as a CRONUS instructor, Boulos also worked with the Orion Program on spacecraft system recovery processes after major malfunctions.

Jose Marcos Flores
Flores, who considers Caguas, Puerto Rico, to be his hometown, interned at multiple NASA centers while working on his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. He came to Johnson Space Center full time in 2010 as a systems engineer, helping to develop a new space station simulator. He went on to become a flight controller managing the station’s power and external thermal control in a position known as Station Power, ARticulation, Thermal, and Analysis (SPARTAN). He also earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University.

Pooja Joshi Jesrani
Jesrani was born in England but immigrated to Houston during childhood. Jesrani began interning with United Space Alliance before graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007. In her work with USA and later NASA, she has supported the space station flight control team in many positions, including managing the life support and motion control systems, and then as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM), speaking directly with the astronauts in space. Recently, Jesrani has been working to integrate mission operations for upcoming commercial crew flights.

Paul Konyha III
Konyha, was born in Manhasset, N.Y., and finished high school in Mandeville, La. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1996 until 2016, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel after holding a number of operations, engineering and leadership positions for numerous space systems. Since then, he has led the design, test, operations and disposal of all Department of Defense payloads on crewed spacecraft for the DOD’s Space Test Program office at Johnson Space Center. Konyha holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and master’s degrees in military operational art and science, and science and astronautical engineering from Air University and the University of Southern California, respectively.

Rebecca J. Wingfield
Wingfield, from Princeton, Ky., interned at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2007. She joined the flight control team at Johnson Space Center in 2007 as a contractor with United Space Alliance, overseeing maintenance tasks that the astronauts perform in space. She went on to become a CAPCOM, speaking to the crew on behalf of the control team, and a chief training officer, preparing space station crews for their missions. She also holds a master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Learn more about careers at NASA at: www.nasa.gov/careers

Pence has high praise for JSC

August 28th, 2018

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he addressed the standing room only crowd in JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“America will lead mankind to the stars once again,” Vice President Mike Pence told a standing room only crowd in Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium, “and,” he continued, “there are plans to send man back to the moon for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“We’re not content with leaving behind footprints or even to leave it all. This time has come, we believe, for the United States of America to take what we’ve learned over so many decades, put your ingenuity and creativity to work and establish a permanent presence around and on the moon.”

Welcome words for a group of hard-working engineers and space scientists, after a decade of nearly being ignored by government officials.

LAST STOP

“The vice president was at JSC after a stop in the hard-hit city of Rockport, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, 2017 and where he and Gov. Greg Abbott made a helicopter tour to survey the recovery. Then it was on to Houston for several events before ending his Texas journey at the place he said “has been at the forefront of America’s journey to the stars,” bringing smiles to the faces of JSC Director Mark Geyer and Deputy Director Vanessa Wyche and the hundreds of other employees looking on.

It was his second visit to NASA’s lead space center. Earlier, he was here to introduce NASA’s newest astronauts. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who introduced Pence, also was back for his second visit in three weeks, much to the delight of the audience, most of whom couldn’t recall this much attention from Washington in years.

Pence, who serves as chairman of the National Space Council, admitted to being a space geek. In fact, he said he was like a kid in a candy store while touring JSC with Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt, one of the last two men to walk on the moon. Together, they visited NASA’s big swimming pool – also known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab – and JSC’s eye-popping collection of moon rocks. Schmitt flew on the nation's last mission to the moon 46 years ago in 1972.

MANTLE OF GREATNESS

For more than 50 years, this storied center has been at the forefront of America's journey to the stars,” Pence continued. This is the ‘home of the Astronaut Corps.’ And, here, from the Mission Control Center, you have guided every American-crewed space expedition since 1965. The names and the voyages that you directed from this place adorn the mantle of American greatness. In Project Gemini, you steered some of our earliest astronauts high above what they called the “Blue Marble”, into low Earth orbit.

“In the Apollo Program, you navigated the first members of the human family to the moon and back.

“At this very hour, you walk with our astronauts through their duties as they walk 200 miles above us, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, on the International Space Station.

NATIONAL TREASURE

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” he continued to great applause. “I have to tell you, I’m just speaking as a small-town guy from southern Indiana, but I know the American people admire — they admire the work done here — past, present — and they look for even greater things in the future here at Johnson Space Center. And let me to say to all of you, and all of those that might be looking on: The most important work and the best days for the Johnson Space Center are yet to come.  Count on it.”

He went on to talk about the work of the National Space Council and the proposed U.S Space Force and how it may be needed in the future, noting that “the need is real,” as the Pentagon has just released a report that China and Russia are weaponizing, “developing and testing new and dangerous weapons and technologies to counter America space capabilities.”

Then, looking to the future, he added, “Sadly, for more than seven years we’ve been forced to hitch a ride to space. Those days are over. Soon – and very soon – American astronauts will return to space on American rockets launched from American soil.”

NASA Announces new deputy director of Johnson Space Center

August 12th, 2018

Vanessa Wyche has been named deputy director of the Johnson Space Center, becoming the first African American to hold the post.

In her new job, she will assist JSC Director Mark Geyer in leading one of NASA’s largest installations, which has nearly 10,000 civil service and contractor employees – including those at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico – and a broad range of human spaceflight activities.

“Vanessa has a deep background at JSC with significant program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs that have been hosted here,” Geyer said in making the announcement. “She is respected at NASA, has built agency wide relationships, throughout her nearly three-decade career and will serve JSC well as we continue to lead human space exploration in Houston.”

Wyche recently served as director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate (EISD) and completed a detail as the JSC deputy director in February 2018.

“I am incredibly humbled to take on this role at JSC, and also excited to assist Mark with leading the home of human spaceflight”; Wyche said. “I look forward to working with the talented employees at JSC as we work toward our mission of taking humans farther into the solar
system.”

The South Carolina native is a graduate of Clemson University, where she earned both her B.S. in Materials Engineering and a Master of Science in Bioengineering. Wyche is the recipient of two NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals and two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals.

Before joining JSC in 1989, Wyche worked for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. She began her career with NASA in the Space Life Sciences Directorate as a project engineer. She has held several key center leadership positions including assistant center director, associate director of EISD and acting director of Human Exploration Development Support.

She also served in the Constellation Program as director of operations and test integration and in the Space Shuttle Program as a flight manager for several space shuttle missions. She was manager of the Mission Integration Office, and she completed a detail in the Office of the NASA Administrator.

For more information about Wyche, visit: