Leidos nears its 50th anniversary while NASA celebrates its 60th

November 1st, 2018

Leidos’ Benjamin.T.D.Minish, Jon Reyna, Wesley Tarkington and Carlos Aguilar. Photo: Moonbridge Media

By Xander Thomas

Leidos is a relatively new company name for some, but not altogether a new company. In fact, it has a 50-year anniversary coming up in 2019 — just after the 60th anniversary of NASA this year. And it has a long history in the space industry.

“At Leidos, our mission is to make the world safer, healthier and more efficient through the application of information technology, engineering and science,” Leidos NASA programs division manager Nan Hardin said.

The Fortune 500 company, she explains, is actually a combination of Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Global Solutions (IS&GS) and national security and commercial portions of SAIC before the company’s split in 2013, both entities with a legacy of technical support to NASA and the space industry.

“Through our heritage and deep understanding of the customer’s mission, we have built a track record of success at NASA centers and within the engineering and scientific community” Hardin said.

A resident of Houston, Hardin manages the Leidos teams supporting the Cargo Mission Contract, the Integrated Mission Operations Contract, the Human Health and Performance Contract and the Research Engineering Mission Integration Services Contract.

SECOND GENERATION
Many Leidos employees supporting today’s NASA contracts are the second generation to do so.

Jon Reyna, a quality team lead, explains that on the current Cargo Mission Contract they “plan, coordinate, prepare and pack standardized containers for all of the International Space Station cargo missions at NASA, international partners and commercial hardware vehicles.”

“We have different layout requirements for each vehicle, so there are no two cargo missions that are alike,” Reyna said. The cargo, he said, usually includes things like food, clothing, crew provisions, soft goods, computer hardware and other electronics gear, batteries, cameras, and experiments.

Reyna’s father also worked for NASA; he was involved in working with mission patch designs and on documentation for flight controls as a graphic artist. His dad worked for multiple NASA contractors and retired at the end of the shuttle contract.

Tyler Minish and Kimberly Johnson, both with the Integrated Mission Operations Contract that is known as the plan/train/fly contract, also followed in their parents’ footsteps.

Both of Minish’s parents worked right here in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. His mother worked in the reconfiguration group, helping train astronauts. She helped with the computer programs of the motion simulators, and later moved over to help support the International Space Station. His father first worked writing software for the shuttle motion simulators before moving into the crew training office and then to the International Space Station. Minish’s father still works in the mission controls center.

In similar fashion, Johnson calls herself a “second gen space cadet” because her mother worked for NASA during the Apollo/Gemini era as a secretary for the engineering director in the Space and Life Sciences Directorate.

Kimberly Johnson of the plan/train/fly contract with a cold stow box.

Johnson was hired on in 1992 by Lockheed Martin, and over the course of her career, she was a crew procedures engineer helping write and format flight data file documentation on shuttle missions. “I got to watch the astronauts get trained and execute the procedures that I was a part of,” she said.

When she was hired, she was a Russian technical specialist flight controller, and she said that being a part of the generation when the U.S. and Russia worked together was a great feeling, knowing that previous tensions between the countries prevented the collaboration.

Like Minish and Johnson, Wes Tarkington is also a 2nd generation employee. His father worked at Johnson Space Center for 33 years. He had been hired early in the Gemini program, worked through Apollo, and was part of Space Station Freedom when it was transferred to Virginia. His family almost moved up there, Tarkington said, but instead, his father transferred to a different department and became mission manager for the Space Shuttle Program.

Tarkington currently supports the Human Health and Performance contract, which provides medical health services in support of all the astronauts.
“In my current role within the human health performance contract, I manage a task order that includes support services and personnel for NASA’s crew health and safety program and also includes NASA’s integrated medical model, lifetime surveillance of astronaut health program and the life sciences data archive,” He said.

He described his role saying he has a team of medical, scientists, and PhDs who monitor and try to identify common conditions that have occurred with crew members as a result of their exposure to space flight.

PROUD MOMENTS
Tarkington said that one of the accomplishments he is most proud of is getting the “Treat Astronauts Act” signed into law. Basically, this bill gives astronauts a legal right to medical care beyond their time working in space flight, in case of any issues that the work may have caused. In return, NASA retains the data over what damage may or may not be caused for use with future flight crews.

Another one of Tarkington’s favorite memories working in support of NASA, he said, was meeting his now-wife of 13 years. “That’s obviously a memorable moment in my career here at NASA,” he said.

For Johnson, one of her proudest moments came when she was working in Moscow in support of the MIR program. “I received a call down from astronaut Dave Wolf recognizing my effort where I scheduled out his day as a planner,” she said.

A MATTER OF TRUST
According to Carlos Aguilar, a business development manager supporting NASA programs, many of the accomplishments being made right now are due to trust and collaboration between Leidos and NASA.

“Our management team really works hard to make sure that our performance is consistent,” Aguilar said, “we’ve also worked to have clear and open dialogue channels with NASA so we can get the feedback we need on our performance and make any course corrections.”

He said that Leidos strives to achieve a partnership, but they want NASA to be the judge of whether it really is.

He continued to say that it is not easy to keep pace with an agency like NASA, but he says that Leidos aims to help with innovations and improvements however they can.

“We are here to help do three things: Innovate, provide NASA with a top tier work force, and deliver on our corporate commitment to accomplish NASA’s mission.”

Leidos is the proud sponsor and underwriter of Bay Area Houston Magazine’s special issue celebrating NASA’s 60th Anniversary. Kudos to Leidos for all they do to support the manned space program. [article export control #20196]

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.