Thank you for your questions and interest! We are officially signing off for now, but some of our experts are sticking around just a bit longer for a few more answers. Bye, everyone!

Thanks for joining us! We'll be taking questions from 3 p.m. EDT - 4 p.m. EDT

Over the past 15 years of 24/7 operations, the team at NASA’s “science central,” the Payload Operations Integration Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama helped Scott Kelly and other crew members conduct more than 1,700 investigation from over 80 countries. We even commanded some experiments remotely from Earth. Flight controllers who work in the space station science command post are here to answer your questions about how they plan, schedule and complete research working with crews on the space station. They will explain how these studies benefit you and will help get humans to Mars.

Answering your questions today are:

Stephanie Dudley – International Space Station Payload Operations Director, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Pat Patterson – International Space Station Payload Operations Director, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Mason Hall -International Space Station Data Management Coordinator, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Lori Meggs -International Space Station Commentator

Bill Hubscher -International Space Station Media Specialist

For more information: Video Tour of Payload Operations Integration Center:

Living and Working In Space: Space Station:

Space Station Research and Technology

Year In Space:


Comments: 685 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

firebreathingbadger302 karma

How surreal is your job compared to "normal life"? Do you find it weird sitting in traffic thinking "must buy bread and milk today - oh, and I must remember to tell the guys on the ISS about that thing"

Also, what's the funniest thing you've heard/seen an astronaut say/do? Not necessarily 'purposefully' funny, like Scott and the SpaceApe, but really off the cuff things, like "oh wait, Scott's floated off chasing his banana because it bounced off the spacesuit"


NASAMarshallMoon566 karma

Hi Firebreathingbadger,

That's a great question. Sometimes, it's really crazy to think about what we actually do for a living. Most of the time, working for the ISS program is very much like a normal job, but sometimes, it's incredibly surreal. As an example, sometimes we go outside and watch the ISS fly over at dusk. We see it soar across the evening sky like a really bright star, and then we can go inside our control center and watch live video from inside that bright point of light and see the astronauts floating around and performing science experiments. It really blows your mind! Another time I remember just how incredible this job can be is when I get to watch a sunrise or sunset from the external cameras. It's one of the most beautiful things I've seen, and I always try and watch them when I'm sitting console. Sometimes I mention what I do to a friend, and they're like "HOLD UP, YOU DO WHAT?!?" and I remember that this job isn't normal.

As for something really funny, one time Sunni Williams and Akihiko Hoshide were preparing for a spacewalk, and while they were doing pre-breathing exercises, they were listening to music. At one point, they started synchronized arm and leg exercises and it looked like they were doing a dance routine in spacesuits! It was my favorite moment from their time on ISS! - MH

EnkiiMuto151 karma

If NASA recorded this kind of shit and streamed they would get millions.

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

You can also check out a live downlink from the station here: This feed varies between cabin views, external views, and video feeds from the experiments! - MH

Outbreak42175 karma

Hello, I'm writing to you from IT Security group at Marshall Space Flight Center just a few blocks away from the HOSC. Thank you for the work you do supporting the ISS science experiments on a 24/7/365 basis for the last 15 years!

What has been the most stressful experience you've had to overcome while manning your console?

NASAMarshallMoon178 karma

Hi Outbreak42!

We appreciate you keeping our computers safe! For me, my most stressful experience was in training. Our training simulations are designed to push us to our limits to see how we perform under stress. If we can survive those, we can probably handle anything we experience once we're certified. Thankfully, nothing I've experienced on console has come close to those levels of stress (thanks to our training!). - MH

DoctorDystopia15 karma

What's the training process like once you're hired for the position?

NASAMarshallMoon20 karma

We may have answered this elsewhere, but basically, once you get hired at our control center, you go through an "Intro to the Space Station" type class. Here at Marshall Space Flight Center, it's called "Payload Academy". After graduating from that (there's a test), you begin team-specific training where you take classes on your team's systems and responsibilities. There are tests and roundtables to evaluate your knowledge of the systems you're responsible that have to be passed before moving on.

Then depending on which team you're on, you either start sitting "Observation On-the-Job-Training" or you start sitting basic sims to start putting your knowledge to work. We have a lot of specials tools and procedures to run everything, and it takes time to learn how all that works.

Eventually, you start the really hard simulations (the really stressful ones), and you start doing "Performance On-the-Job-Training" where you're actually controlling your part of the space station with a certified person watching over you.

If you make it through all of that, there's more tests and evaluations, and then they decide if you're ready for try for certification. The certification process consists of a week of performance OJT where you don't have a certified person sitting right beside you (they're elsewhere keeping an eye on things) and a special evaluator watches what you do and determines if you're ready to trusted to handle things all by yourself! On our team, pretty much everyone who makes it to the certification week is successful in certifying. At that point, you don't have to be perfect, but you do have to be able to respond to mistakes appropriately (since even seasoned flight controllers sometimes make mistakes).

So, it's a long process that take 6-12 months depending on how busy the training team is and the skill of the trainee.

Hope that answers your question! - MH

ThatOneIKnow12 karma

Our training simulations are designed to push us to our limits to see how we perform under stress.

Maybe too late to get answered, but anyway: Are there any Kobayashi Maru type scenarios during these trainings?

NASAMarshallMoon17 karma

Great question! Typically, the trainers go into simulations with specific objectives in mind. They either want to see a trainee respond to a certain situation, failure, or to really test their communication skills. Often, more and more things start breaking and the situation gets more and more serious. Sometimes in the SIM, the crew has to abandon the station because they're simulating a bad fire or debris strike, or loss of control.

For those types of situations, it's similar to the Kobayashi Maru in that sometimes there's nothing we can do to fix things, so it's all about making sure the crew is safe. The sims teach us to think about anomalies and how they interact with each other to form new problems. They teach us to communicate and work together to preserve the crew, the station, and science! - MH

Future_Daydreamer162 karma

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this AMA, I have a few questions.

  1. I'm currently a Software Engineering student and I think being a flight controller sounds like an amazing job. What sorts of paths can be taken to get a position such as yours or what can a student do to get closer to having such a job in the future?
  2. What is an average day like as a flight controller?
  3. Do you have any favorite stories or experiences to share? I'd love to hear them!
  4. What is your favorite experiment that has been conducted on the ISS in the last year?

NASAMarshallMoon207 karma

SRBD (Stephanie): My pleasure! I've been looking forward to this...

  1. Any of the STEM fields, really. We have engineers, PhDs in chemistry and physics, communications majors, mathematicians. Do something you love and talk to people who do things that you're interested in. Have passion.

  2. I actually wrote a blog about this very thing a year or so ago. It probably answers it more thoroughly than I could in this space:

  3. There are so many, so I'll give you one from the last six months. I was the lead payload operations director during the second half of the One Year Mission to the space station that just wrapped up 10 days ago. Getting to work daily with the crew and flight directors and scientists around the word was a very rewarding experience. However, one funny moment was during a private video conference with the crew when I saw a gorilla wearing a hololens. (

  4. Again, there are so many, but the SPHERES Zero Robotics competitions are always fun to watch. Basically, teams made up of high school students compete against each other to program these volleyball sized satellites to move around the interior of the station. Then they get to visit MIT to watch the astronauts run their programs live from space! This year, students from all over the WORLD participated in the program.

rockingtoohard148 karma

Howdy NASA flight controllers! Thanks for doing an AMA!

1) do you ever feel like putting Kerbal Space Program up on the big screens? I feel like that would be an amazing experience for Jeb.

2) as a teacher I occasionally have students really interested in the space program. What is the typical education/career path I can show them?


NASAMarshallMoon231 karma

I love Kerbal Space Program! It's really helped me understand orbital mechanics and how space stations can be built (especially how difficult docking can be!). We have to keep the big screen clear for mission information and video feeds, but it wouldn't be very much out of place! I would love to take Jeb or Val to the Space Station for real! - MH

suaveitguy79 karma

How often are the astronauts on the shortwave radio? Is that something you would suggest a space-crazy ten year old try, or is it so infrequent that it would just be disappointing?

NASAMarshallMoon121 karma

Well, pretty soon the astronauts will have made 1,000 calls to student on the ham radio through the ARISS program. You can learn more about that here:

The crew members can talk on the ham radio anytime they want. NASA typically schedules 3 student contacts per week per crew member. Check with the ARISS program to see if any schools or clubs in your are involved.

You can also sign up to see the station if it orbits over your hometown at Spot the Station:

There is nothing crazy about loving space exploration. Keep it up. Pat P.

MattBaster63 karma

What are some of the most unorthodox, yet extremely entertaining tests for astronauts to perform in space?

NASAMarshallMoon139 karma

SRBD: Well, it's sort of unorthodox, but our crew members will "conduct tests" by playing games on their iPads. This actually can measure their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination to see what effect microgravity has on the human body.

(Of course, we also collect far more bodily fluids than I care to think about - blood, sweat, etc... - all in the name of science. That's definitely not entertaining for the astronauts!)

MattBaster14 karma

Ew! I'd imagine a runny nose in space could get super nasty!

Thank you for the reply!

bcgoss45 karma

Astronauts need to sleep next to a vent or the CO2 they exhale forms a bubble around their face and suffocates them. Imagine that but with snot...

Cameroo5 karma

I could be remembering wrong but I thought that was just a myth...

cambiro18 karma

This is in ESA website:

Hot air doesn't go up in microgravity (since there's no up). One solution is to drift freely while sleeping, which might not be very comfortable because there are many things to hit in the way. The other is to sleep near a vent.

emanymdegnahc8 karma

That just made me think of something. Sleeping in midair seems like it would be really comfortable, so long as you could stay in one place.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

It's very comfortable (so I'm told)! Most astronauts sleep in sleeping bags tied to the wall in their personal crew compartments, but some have been known to just cross their arms and go to sleep! - MH

HalfSquirrel51 karma

How often do you misread ISS as ISIS?

NASAMarshallMoon63 karma

I have a friend who misreads my "ISS" tweets as "ISIS " every now and then, and it makes me laugh! Those of us who work here tend to keep them straight. - MH

ph0tohead46 karma

What is the scariest event that you've experienced while on the job? As in, the scariest thing that's happened, like a near-catastrophic situation etc.

What's the most realistic scariest thing you're afraid of happening? Sorry for the wording, I can't figure out how to make it sound better haha

NASAMarshallMoon92 karma

It's the things that happen on Earth that you can't control. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with weather. Since our control room operates around the clock, 365 days a year, and we are in Alabama, even snow and ice can result in issues getting to and from work. But so far, we have stayed open, even during a horrible tornado outbreak that shut power down in the whole city of Huntsville, Alabama where we are located for 2 weeks. We had to operate the control room off of back up power. People who lived in nearby Tennessee areas that were not affected brought us food and gas.

When hurricanes shut down mission control at JSC in Houston, key flight controllers came here to use a backup control room. Pat P.

bcgoss25 karma

What kind of redundancy exists for a crisis like this? Is there another facility that matches every capability at the Alabama site? "Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?"

NASAMarshallMoon7 karma

There's a backup location we can go to here in Huntsville if our control center is unavailable. It's small and only has enough space for a bare-bones team, but it works. In the past, we've only used it during periods of major maintenance activities at our control center. Hopefully, we won't need to use it for a real emergency! - MH

Icandigsushi34 karma

Shouldn't you be flying a space station or something?

NASAMarshallMoon34 karma

Thankfully we have lots of teammates who run the station when we're not there. We have a 24/7/365 operations, and there's no way we could be there ourselves all the time! - MH

lightningheels34 karma

Firstly, thank you for doing this AMA! I've got two questions.

Have any experiments had particularly surprising results/gone against intuition?

Also, how are experiments selected to be performed on the ISS?

NASAMarshallMoon56 karma

To me, some of the biggest surprises are how results end up being used to benefit people on Earth. For example, technology from the robot arm used to build the station is now brain surgery. One of the earliest space station experiments was remote ultrasound for human research. Now, developing countries have access to this same modern technology.

I love the spider experiment. They were supposed to only live for about a month, and they lived for 66 days, and one actually made it back to Earth on the Space Shuttle. You can hear me discuss this in a YouTube video.

There are several ways experiments are selected by NASA, our international partners and Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. If you want to know more, you can learn about it here: Pat P.

mcgillycuddy41228 karma

What kind of music do you all like?

NASAMarshallMoon60 karma

SRBD: Heavy metal. Lamb of God, Megadeath, Anthrax, Carcass, etc.

Mason: Folk. The Milk Carton Kids, Nickle Creek, Jenny and Tyler and the Avett Bros.

Pat: I like a variety of music. Lynyrd Skynrd, Canadian Brass, Jimmy Buffett...

Lori: Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson, if you're nasty) and Michael. Also, George Strait, Barbara Streisand...

Bill: I listen to almost anything, from classical to Americana. Mozart, Jimmy Eat World, The Lone Bellow, Live, Pearl Jam, Imagine Dragons, JOHNNYSWIM... I could go on for a while...

dumbolddoor25 karma

What are your thoughts on commercial space flight?

NASAMarshallMoon46 karma

I think it's great. For humankind to be able to go beyond low Earth orbit, we need to commercialize activity around Earth's orbit. This will allow NASA and our international partners to devote more resources to deep space exploration including a journey to Mars.

In the Payload Operations Integration Center, we work with commercial launch vehicles that bring valuable experiments to the station all the time. Pat. P.

NASAMarshallMoon26 karma

We're really excited about it, and we're making a lot of changes to our operations to be ready for all the extra science having an extra 4th USOS crewmember will allow us to do! - MH

swemar19 karma

Are preparations/modifications already being made for the upcoming manned SpaceX and Boeing launches to the ISS, and if so what are they?

NASAMarshallMoon25 karma

Yes. Most of this work is being done by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and by the companies. Right now, we work with the companies bringing cargo, including experiments to space. They berth with the station. Crew vehicles will be able to dock, which is slightly different, and people on Earth are working on that docking system. Pat P.

ArchangelPT17 karma

How did you like the movie "The Martian"?

How often do you have to "science the shit" out of unforeseen problems?

NASAMarshallMoon29 karma


NASAMarshallMoon24 karma

I haven't seen the movie, but I LOVED the book. But Matt Damon did a great job, I hear from my fellow controllers.

Everyday is a new day to "science the xxxx" out of unforeseen problems. That's one of the funnest parts of the job. Pat P.

4rch11 karma

What are some crisis' that can occur day to day?

How are orbit changes planned, approved, performed?

NASAMarshallMoon16 karma

SRBD: The space station is a scientific lab as well as home to our astronauts. Just as things can sometimes go wrong in a laboratory, the same thing can happen in orbit. Sometimes that can be a good thing: if you're performing an experiment and get an unexpected result, you still learn from the experience and change the plan. We have to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in real-time as well as alter our scheduled timeline for future experiments.

As for your second question, if you mean "adjusting" our orbit/altitude, that is something the Johnson Space Center handles as we make adjustments for incoming vehicle trajectories. Sometimes we'll get a boost from one of the cargo or crew vehicles while they're docked with the station.

swemar11 karma

What upcoming planned experiment, or event, on the ISS are you most looking forward to, and why?

NASAMarshallMoon22 karma

The Gecko Gripper experiment is interesting, and it's a technology astronauts can use. It is scheduled to come up on the next Cargo Resupply Mission, Orbital 6 in March. Experiments to be launched on Orbital ATK Cargo Resupply Services Mission 6:

Pat P.

durbblurb10 karma

How difficult is it to deal with communication delay between Earth and space? Has there ever been a moment when the delay seemed dramatically longer than what it actual was (i.e. fear that something went wrong)?

NASAMarshallMoon18 karma

Hi durbblurb!

Great question! The comm delay to ISS really isn't a big challenge for us. Thankfully, it's very short. However, what's a bigger problem is that we don't always have voice communications to ISS due to lack of satellite coverage with NASA's TDRSS network. We have short periods where we don't have a voice link, but we normally know in advance when that's going to happen.

Sometimes though, we don't know in advance! I remember one time when the primary US space station computers crashed and we lost our normal voice link for several hours. We had to depend on backup Russian ground sites to instruct the crew on how to fix the computers. We were confident that everything was ok because the crew called down and told us they were monitoring everything, but we felt very out of touch until they got it fixed. - MH

rlwalker110 karma

Hey, guys, from downtown Huntsville!

Is it true that if the ISS calls you, it'll show up as a 256 number on caller ID?

NASAMarshallMoon25 karma

It's not a 256 area code. The crew logs in to a computer in Houston, so it's a 281 number. Stephanie

UCgirl9 karma

How do you and the astronauts deal with time? You have Alabama time, which is working differently than ISS night/light, which is different than the other international contingent.

How bad is the time delay when sending info to the ISS and does it effect anything?

What is the most used scientific "resource" on the ISS and how do you deal with scheduling it?

NASAMarshallMoon16 karma

The station's day is based on GMT. The crew wakes up at 6 a.m., which is midnight or 1 a.m. here in Alabama. Since we are on consoles 24 hours a day, there is always someone who can work with the crew members on investigations.

The time delay is negligible, really. (It's not like they're 223,000 miles away on the moon! :)

As for our resources, that could include power, water, bandwidth, nitrogen, crew time, video channels... there are so many. Scheduling takes a long time and is thought out well in advance. We started scheduling for today's plan a year ago and the plans we're working on today won't actually be carried out until March 2017.

tidesoncrim8 karma

What do you guys think about the City of Huntsville? I've lived here most of my life, and it really embraces its space heritage.

NASAMarshallMoon10 karma

I consider myself a native Huntsvillian. My family moved here when I was 2 months old. The only time I have lived outside of Huntsville was the 9 months I spent in Greenbelt, Maryland supporting the Hubble Space Telescope deployment and verification. This vastly different than supporting human spaceflight missions.

I adore the City of Huntsville. Maintaining a small town feel while offering the culture of much bigger cities satisfies me. I travel to Houston a lot because I work with Flight Director teams. It's a fun place to visit, but I sure love living in Huntsville. Roll Tide. Pat P.

heatmizuh8 karma

Alabama or Auburn? Kidding...mostly.

But seriously, Flight, you folks have a really cool Control room. My question: Have any of y'all gone to Space Camp, and what was your experience like?

NASAMarshallMoon13 karma

Go Gators! Stephanie

NASAMarshallMoon10 karma

2 Alabama Fans, 1 Auburn Fans, and a few other out of state and non-SEC schools in the group of people answering questions today. Personally, #Hailstate! - MH

Lobstrositiesbitme8 karma

How large could the ISS theoretically grow to or what modules would be a welcomed improvement to the ISS even if they don't exist yet?

NASAMarshallMoon12 karma

When SpaceX-8 Launches (hopefully late-march or early April), it will deliver a new module to the space station called BEAM. It's an inflatable module that we'll be testing out! We won't have astronauts spending much time in it, but it will be there! - MH

NoMoBluepill7 karma

Any word on how it is going sorting through the recent astronaut applications?

NASAMarshallMoon8 karma

No. We don't really particpate in the process. I'm sure they are very busy after the record number of applications. It will be a year and a half before the candidates are announced. Stephanie

kingfappypants6 karma

What is the longest amount of time something has gone missing on the ISS?

Also, what's up with Robotnaut? I haven't seen much news about him.

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

There are stowage everywhere. In the ceiling, in the floors. We have a Stowage controller here and in Houston. They try to keep up with where everything is. Not sure what longest time is. Hopefully, soon we will be able to 3D print stuff to replace some things we lost or need.

Robonaut got some legs last year, even though he wasn't built with legs in mind. We are continuing to work with the astronauts to perform robot surgery to troubleshoot issues with his control system. It's fun testing this new technology in an environment where it could be used. Pat P.

ClimbinInYoWindow6 karma

Do you see a moon base in the foreseeable future?

I always figured this would be a logical step before contemplating the extreme challenges a manned Mars mission would bring.

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

I think we can do almost anything if we put our minds to it. The space station is providing us with the knowledge and experience to do missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Missions on the Moon, which is in the proving ground, can help us learn even more about human exploration farther away from home. Pat P.

rgansaldi6 karma

What has been the most heart racing emergency flight controllers have experienced since the building of the space station?

NASAMarshallMoon12 karma

Safety of the crew is the number one priority. We've had several false fire alarms and recently a false ammonia leak. Any time the crew is in danger my blood pressure rises. Fire, depressurization, and toxic atmosphere are the biggest concerns. Flight controllers and the crew train regularly on these events and are prepared to handle these emergencies. We even have procedures to safe our experiments if necessary. Stephanie

patanwilson5 karma

Hello there!

What is a typical work day for you guys like?

Are there any surprisingly odd experiments that will help us gain knowledge to go to Mars?

Thanks for doing this!

NASAMarshallMoon11 karma

My typical work day depends on which shift I am working. For day shift, I arrive about 6:30 a.m. I have already read the log from the previous day and reviewed the timeline, the schedule of crew and flight controller activities. Once I arrive, I read the current log left by the previous Payload Operations Director (POD), double check the timeline looking for changes, and ask questions of the off going POD.
I participate in flight director's tag up. Most of that team is in Houston's mission control. I am here in Huntsville, but I am still part of the Mission Control team. Once I am comfortable, I take control of Payload Operations Control Area 1 and lead my team to execute the science for the day. For midnight shift, it is essentially the same, but I report at 11:45 p.m. For swing shift, the crew is asleep, so the POD duties include planning for the next crew work day. Swing shift starts at 2:45. Sometimes at night, we are operating experiments, even though the crew is asleep.

SPHERES Slosh use robotic spheres to study slosh effect of liquids, which could be used for designing rocket fuel tanks that operate in a microgravity environment. You can learn more about it here:

Thank you for asking an interesting question. Pat P.

Cmdr_Aristotle5 karma

How space plant grows even the international space station doesn't have sunlight? Is it affecting the texture and color or nutrients as well? Thank you :)

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

Thanks for your question - We've been researching this quite a bit lately as we try to come up with ways to grow fresh food on the station and on the journey to Mars.

During the past year there was an investigation on board called "Veggie" where we tested the use of special growth-chamber and lighting system as well as planting "pillows" to provide nutrients for the root system. We are trying to support a variety of plants and grew lettuce and even zinnia flowers! We plan to bring the resulting plants home this spring to compare them with plants grown on Earth... when we will also test the nutritional content.

You can check out this article for more information:

spaceguy874 karma

I hear mason has a pretty epic beard. Why do astronauts on the ISS not have epic beards?

NASAMarshallMoon14 karma

Limit 1 epic beard per space station. -MH

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

It IS pretty epic! Stephanie

biscaynebystander4 karma

My best friend in college is the grandson of Commander Jim Lovell. I had the pleasure of hearing him tell his story that was made into the Apollo 13 movie. Still am amazed at his ability to navigate back to Earth with a computer that has the same operating power as a Casio watch. Could the same thing happen today?

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

That is really cool that you have that connection to Commander Lovell! Most of the computers onboard the space station were designed in the 80s but we keep using them because they are reliable; we do have modern computers for the science data systems. -MH

spaceBAMA4 karma

Hi Stephanie, Pat and Samantha! This is Josh from WAAY. I get to talk to y'all about your job in person, but I wanted to stop by and see if there's anything you think I should ask or mention to Tim Kopra - I've got a 10 minute interview window with the ISS on Tuesday morning. Have y'all recently worked on an exciting payload with him I should ask about or done any interesting things I should mention?

Apologies in advance for taking some time away from the science!

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

Ask him if he misses Scott. Ask him what his favorite investigation is and what he's looking forward to doing. Ask him the difference between working with a 3-person crew vs a 6-person crew. Ask if there is anything arriving on Orbital CRS 6 that he most wants.

Experiments to be launched on Orbital ATK Cargo Resupply Services Mission 6:

Pat. P.

NatCracken4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

So I am making the assumption that with your 24/7 schedule it is very important to wake up on time. I was wondering what alarm clocks you, and maybe the other folks around NASA if you know, rely on for such a vital part of the operation?

NASAMarshallMoon9 karma

The key isn't so much what alarm clock you use, but that you use multiple of them. Stephanie

lacedaimon4 karma

There is a growing group of conspiracy theorists that do not believe that NASA has ever been to space and that the ISS doesn't even exist. Have you ever come across these types of people, and how do you handle someone that refuses to believe that space travel is real and things of that nature?

NASAMarshallMoon10 karma

I laugh at them. Not really. I have never encountered that in person. They can see live video from the International Space Station everyday all night long as well as Spot the Station going over there home town. Spot the Station:

HD ISS Views:

Seeing is believing. Pat P.

DB_Cooper_lives4 karma

What powers the ISS?

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

Solar Arrays. Batteries. Pat P.

Traviscat3 karma

To get a job with NASA do you have to move to a city with a NASA base?

I'd love to get a job with NASA (Mechanical Engineering tech student), but the closest NASA facilities are 500 miles away from me in two directions.

NASAMarshallMoon7 karma

Yes. Do it. It's worth the move!

I used to work at Kennedy, which was near where I grew up. Moving to Marshall and away from my family was a very hard decision, but was totally worth it! Stephanie

Traviscat3 karma

Id love to go but unfortunately I have to finish my degree, I doubt NASA would accept my application without it finished.

It would be awesome to do a summer internship in Florida (I could stay with a family member by Disney World), but I assume it would be full already if there even is an internship.

NASAMarshallMoon11 karma

Remember that NASA has lots of people who work at NASA who don't work for NASA. Most of the work done for space station flight control is done by NASA contractors! Many of the NASA contractors also have internship and coop opportunities! - MH

rgansaldi3 karma

What would be your dream mission to be a flight controller on? I'm interested in your deep space dreams.

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

Mars would be very cool.

RookieMistake_3 karma

How's the weather up there?

NASAMarshallMoon23 karma

SRBD: 72 and sunny... beautiful sunrises every 90 minutes!

minibeep3 karma

have you guys pressed spacebar too early and separated a stage too early before ?

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Only in KSP! Thankfully it's much harder to accidentally do this in real life! - MH

amigable_olvidable3 karma

Thanks for doing this!

So, how much of your time is spent working versus chilling? I will assume this isn't your standard 40 hour week, but what does that look like?

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

SRBD: We have people working in science mission control 24x7. We usually work a regular 40 hour week, but it could be on any of the shifts based on when we're scheduled. This week could be the morning shift and next week the afternoon shift. Our management understands when we're on console, so if we work the weekend, we flex the time to take off during the week.

We conduct science even when the astronauts are asleep!

NASAMarshallMoon2 karma

We try and keep it to 40 hours a week (or sometimes 80 hours over two weeks). However, WHEN we work those hours can vary. Our control center is staffed 24/7/365, so sometimes we have to work the midnight shift! Some of us spend all or most of our time not working in the control room preparing everything for upcoming experiments and training new flight controllers! We also have to work weekends and holidays, but for major holidays, we usually have special food brought in! Flight controllers love food and you'll be our best friend if you leave a plate or tray or food in the control room for everyone to snack on. - MH

jlhatfield3 karma

What led you to choose to follow the career path you have chosen?

NASAMarshallMoon9 karma

I took calculus and computer programming as a senior in high school. My guidance counselor gave me an application for the NASA feeder co-op scholarship. One of the questions was, "What type of engineer do you want to be?" I didn't know anything about engineering, so I asked my teacher, and she said to answer electrical engineering. I did, and I received a scholarship and have been working for NASA ever sense. I even worked at NASA Marshall the summer between high school and college. That's when I learned I liked engineering and space. Thanks to all my wonderful teachers! Pat P.

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

After an internship at a different company here in Huntsville after my sophomore year, I realized I didn't enjoy designing hardware. But then after my Junior year, I was an intern with a different team here at ISS Payload Ops while still in college and realized I loved what was going on here. After I graduated, it took a few months for them to have an opening, but I knew this is what I wanted to do. I've also had a lot of guidance from my parents and mentors that helped me decide to stick with engineering when I realized I didn't enjoy hardware design. - MH

polynomialpusher3 karma

Afternoon folks! I have a question regarding communication delays when going to Mars.

There have been very few (if any) missions that don't require input from technicians/flight controllers/engineers on the ground. The closer we get to Mars the longer the communication delay will be and in certain circumstances this could become detrimental in life or death situations.

What are your thoughts on how to deal with this? Are Mars crews going to have to be completely autonomous? Or is this simple hardware maturity?


NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

The communications delays for Mars will certainly present challenges, but there's still plenty we'll still be able to do. Many of the experiments on the space station (especially the ones on the outside) operate without any interaction from the crew at all, so those would continue to operate similarly to how we do things today.

We're also working on software solutions to automatically make configuration changes based on scheduled activities, but that's still a work in progress! - MH

McMeatbag3 karma

What's your favorite thing about your job?

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

It is the people who I get to work with and being a part of science investigations that benefit people on Earth and NASA's future exploration missions. You can learn more about me and what I enjoy about this fantastic job working on the International Space Station team here: Pat P.

swemar3 karma

What type of educational background does a flight controller need?

NASAMarshallMoon6 karma

Hi Swemar!

Most of us have STEM degrees, however many of us also have education, communications, and business degrees! Different flight control positions have different requirements. It takes all sorts of backgrounds to make the Space Station run! - MH

Lepew13 karma

Who on the ISS has the best taste in music?

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

Some of the astronauts are gifted musicians. Flutes, guitars, and keyboards are just a few of the instruments that have been played on the space station. Chris Hadfield played a David Bowie song that was quite popular and charmed us. Some of the astronauts are in bands that play around Houston. Pat P.

MCEire2 karma

How often do you have to get the crew to maneuver the space station in order to avoid debris in orbit?

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

Flight controllers on the ground command the space station maneuvers. This leaves the crew lots of time to perform science experiments! - MH

laurieweegs2 karma

Hi, I might be a little slow but even watching the return to Earth by Scott Kelly and the two cosmonauts in the Soyuz, I'm unclear on: 1) dimensions inside the part of the Soyuz they stayed in after the other 2 parts detached; 2) how loud it was in there; 3) I know it had been travelling at 17,000 mph in space but once hitting Earth's atmosphere, how fast was it hurling to the ground before the big parachute opened?

Finally, that must be the most gripping, blood-curdling part of the ordeal for you as controllers. How do you stay sane during this process, and are you in touch with Scott Kelly (or whomever) in those moments?

thank you

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

Thanks for the question. The inside of the Soyuz capsule is pretty small - big enough for three astronauts and some supplies. I'm not sure about the speed or the sound since that is handled by the Russian space program. Once they have undocked from the space station, it's out of our hands and we are watching with the rest of you, and are very happy when they land safely. We look forward to their crew debrief in Huntsville. -MH

ABlackwelly2 karma

What is one of the weirdest things that has been sent up to the ISS?

NASAMarshallMoon7 karma

Robonaut's legs. Spiders. Gorilla Suit.

The spiders are my favorite. Watch the video here to see the spiders: Pat P.

plonyguard2 karma

Thank you for doing an AMA!

1)What was it like to see space for the first time?

2)Can you see very many stars?

3)Can you recommend any ways for civilians who would like to volunteer for the space program to become active if there isn't a local space center? I'm currently a participant in GalaxyZoo, but would love to participate in more.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Hi Plonyguard!

  1. Incredible to see Earth from space...simply incredible to watch it all the time at work

  2. We don't see many stars on the external cameras, but we sometimes catch a shot of the moon!

  3. I'm really not sure. Sorry! -MH

Overcriticalengineer2 karma

Love NASA. What positions would you recommend for those in Systems Engineering? And what is your favorite part of what you do?

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

NASA has many opportunities for Systems Engineers!

Favorite part... Whats better than doing science experiments on the space station?! It doesn't get any cooler than that! Stephanie

TheBestGingerAle2 karma

do you ever just like, shake the ship around? to mess with them a bit?

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

Nope! That could mess with our experiments that depend on microgravity!

NASAMarshallMoon4 karma

Plus the ADCO team in Houston wouldn't be very happy with us. - MH

4HighKurryBacon2 karma

Hey NASA, thanks for ama, i got just a couple questions, How long does training for a flight controller take; and what does it usually involve? :)

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Our training and certification program takes about one year, but it depends on the trainee and position. Training includes reading, both table top and integrated simulations, on the job training, and tests. Stephanie

Johnnohj2 karma

Thanks so much for this! What do you think would be the best option for majors in hopes of working with NASA? Dual major ofPhysics and chemistry with a minor in astronomy or do a physics and astronomy dual major?

NASAMarshallMoon5 karma

Either one is good. NASA needs experts in all majors. The key is to do something you are passionate about!

AiwendilMaia2 karma

Hello, thanks for doing this ama!

I'm quite interested in some of the technology you have up there–more specifically, the laptops that seem to be floating around all over the ISS. While watching tours of the space station, they seem to be all over the place.

is it true that the only laptops used there are Thinkpads?

Additionally, what type of operating system do you guys tend to use? I heard it was Debian and Scientific Linux.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Thanks for the question! There are various types of computers that are used - iPads, laptops, smartphones, etc. These type of devices fall under systems hardware and are managed by our friends in Houston. Pat P.

MizCano2 karma

Hello everybody and again thank you so much! I find it extremely fascinating the jobs that all of you have that takes tremendous hard work and focus. Besides taking the time to read and answer questions I just want to say thank you for just the work that you do everyday that will bring so many new exciting breakthroughs for our future. Ok so here is just a fun question. What do each of each you enjoy doing on your down time to decompress? Has there been any scary situations that any of you have had to deal with regarding someone up in space? Assuming you would be allowed to answer this.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

I enjoy reading, quilting, and water skiing. Not scary but touching situations include being aware of when Mission Control delivers sad information to a crew member. On the flip side, an emotional, exciting experience was being aware of when a crew member's wife had their 3rd child while he was in space. Pat P.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Speaking for myself, I like to ride bikes (Huntsville has some great greenways that are great for short bike rides). We're in a great part of the country for outdoor adventures, so many of us spend a lot of time outside. If I need to decompress and the weather's nice, I'll take a short hike and setup a hammock with my journal and a good book. Also cooking and a universal favorite: netflix! - MH

alpha10alpha2 karma

I am starting my masters project in my last year of PA school right now and my topic is "the effects of microgravity on the human immune system." My very brief start to research has pulled up some really interesting data (oxidative burst effects, microRNA changes, etc.) I was wondering, in the last year of new research, what new areas of immune health/function are you most excited to see the results of? Thanks for your time.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

We're really looking forward to the results of the One Year Mission! Scott Kelly has given us lots of data to work with! - MH

DigiMagic2 karma

How are scientific experiments on ISS actually done - do astronauts receive all the necessary tools & raw materials & other stuff and written instructions so they can do it all by themselves, or they can't without additional assistance from your side? What about regular maintenance of life support and other systems; do astronauts already know how to do everything and have access to all the measurements to ensure everything is right, or they can't do it without support from Earth? Perhaps this is too simplified, obviously I don't know much about how these things are done.

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

We train the crew before they launch and develop all of the procedures, plans, and launch all the necessary hardware they need. They are our hands on lab techs. On any given day the crew works on several different types of experiments, so they can't be the expert on all of the science. Sometimes experiments require very close communication between the scientist and the crew. We enable the scientist to talk directly to the crew member onboard. Stephanie

rgansaldi2 karma

Do you get bored sitting watching your console all day waiting for that one special day to come?

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

This job is never boring! There is always something happening. Even in the middle of the night on a weekend. Stephanie

biscaynebystander2 karma

Went to the Smithsonian and was taken aback at how short the early astronauts were. What's the average height for today's astronaut?

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Hi! Basic requirements, including height, depending on position, can be found here:

AviatorRossy1 karma

Hey Guys! Hope I'm not too late! My question is: I am a Flight Operations Controller for a small private airline in the UK, we fly private jets all over the world. Anything from Flight Planning to Permit Applications and dealing with Civil Aviation Authorities from hundreds of different countries! What would you recommend be my steps in order to make it to Flight Controller in NASA/Space X etc? Any advise would be much appreciated!

NASAMarshallMoon2 karma

Did you know there's a control center near Munich? You can learn about all the different control centers here:

Sound like your experience would enable to you to work for the European Space Agency. Pat P.

SpaceSheepOne1 karma

Hello, thank you for doing this AMA. I have one question.

Do you sometimes wish you could be on the other side of the connection, in other words, on the International Space Station?

NASAMarshallMoon3 karma

Every day! Stephanie