My NASA Story
Just two weeks fresh out of college, with the ink on my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering barely dry, my career journey began at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in Florida, as a Payload Electrical Engineer in the Electrical and Telecommunications Systems Division. Six months in, I became the lead for a complement of Orbiter Experiments (OEX) on OV-102, Space Shuttle Columbia. I also worked on the shuttle payload bay reconfiguration for all shuttle missions and conducted electrical compatibility tests for all payloads flown onboard. Detailed as the Executive Staff Assistant to the Director of Shuttle Operations, I was tasked to undertake several special projects. I led a team of engineers in performing critical analysis for the space shuttle flow in support of a simulation model tool and worked on producing an interactive display detailing the space shuttle processing procedures at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex. Later, serving as backup orbiter project engineer for OV-104, Space Shuttle Atlantis, I participated in the integration of the orbiter docking station (ODS), which was critical in accomplishing the Shuttle/Mir docking missions. Two years later, I was promoted to lead orbiter project engineer for OV-102, Space Shuttle Columbia. In this position, I held the technical lead government engineering position in the firing room (the nerve center for launches), managing the integration of vehicle testing and troubleshooting. I participated in 53 successful space shuttle launches and landings during my 9-year tenure at the Kennedy Space Center. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, after an unsuccessful attempt two years earlier, I reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. I was fortunate to be one of the 122 people selected to interview in 1994, but not one of the 19 ultimately selected. Close but no cigar! After completing astronaut candidate (ASCAN) training, I was assigned technical duties in the Payloads & Habitability Branch, the Shuttle Avionics & Integration Laboratory, the Kennedy Space Center Operations Support Branch, where I tested various modules of the International Space Station for operability, compatibility, and functionality prior to launch, the Astronaut Office CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) Branch in the startup and support of numerous space station missions and space shuttle missions, the Robotics Branch, and Lead for the International Space Station Systems Crew Interfaces Section. On December 9, 2006, the crew of STS-116 Discovery lifted off at 8:47:35pm EST to continue building the International Space Station (ISS)….and I was on board!!! The nearly 13-day mission continued construction of the ISS outpost by adding the P5 spacer truss segment. My primary task was to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), aka the robotic arm. I also served as the ‘loadmaster’, transferring more than two tons of equipment and supplies to the space station, and returning to Earth almost two tons of items no longer needed onboard the station. After traveling 5.3 million miles, and logging over 308 hours in space, STS-116 landed on December 22 at 5:32pm EST. In November 2007, after a 20-year distinguished career with NASA, I made the difficult decision to retire, and pursue opportunities in the private sector.