UPDATE: That's all the time we have for questions today! Thanks so much for joining the conversation and be sure to get the latest updates about what's happening 250 miles above our home planet by visiting https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, meet five female flight directors leading NASA’s Mission Control Center. As flight directors, they lead teams monitoring and controlling the International Space Station, as well as run simulations and develop processes for Commercial Crew flights to the station and Artemis missions to land the first woman and next man on the Moon.

What questions do have for the women leading Mission Control today?

Participants include:

  • Pooja Jesrani – NASA Flight Director
  • Mary Lawrence – NASA Flight Director
  • Courtenay McMillan – NASA Flight Director
  • Emily Nelson – NASA’s Deputy Chief Flight Director
  • Rebecca Wingfield – NASA Flight Director

Proof: https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1164995476774633473

Comments: 202 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Jazzmim_999115 karma

Do you girls party with the aliens at Area 51 very often?

nasa117 karma


alphatweaker74 karma

What can the average redditor do to try and increase the percentage of the federal budget that is currently allocated towards space exploration?

nasa94 karma

A great question for the anniversary of the certification of the 19th Ammendment! No ammendment required for you to be able to write to your Congressional representatives to encourage them to support NASA and our missions.

Emily - Peridot Flight

a-alzayani40 karma

They seek you for a solution when there is a problem "Houston, We Have a Problem"...

but what if you are the one haveing having the problem (power outage, flood, fire...etc), can you work from a diffrent location/diffrent directors?

nasa55 karma

Hi, this is Mary, Infinity Flight! Thank you for the question. A large part of our job is to plan for the possibility of contingencies both in space and on Earth. Mission control here in Houston has backup power and support capabilities, but we also have the ability to use alternate NASA facilities in the event of a Houston evacuation.

TortillaStrangler23 karma

What is (in your opinion) the most challenging thing that NASA has accomplished since 2018?

nasa42 karma

This is Mary, Infinity FLIGHT! It's an extremely busy and exciting time here at NASA! There as been many significant accomplishments over the past couple years. One event that I was specifically involved in was leading the International Space Station spacewalks to upgrade a set of batteries external to the ISS. These batteries store power from the solar arrays and were delivered by the Japanese logistics cargo ship called HTV.
The spacewalks were completed in April 2019. There is another HTV mission (#8) to the ISS coming in September!

The_Punisher1717 karma

Hello! I’m currently studying for my Undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering. I also plan on completing a graduate degree in astronautical engineering. I am really nervous and curious about what lies beyond the educational part of my journey. ‘Interstellar’ inspired me to take up this course and I’m heavily invested in it. Could you tell me what obstacles you faced after you graduated, what you are currently working on, and your plans for the future?

nasa32 karma

Remain curious. Curiosity can drive exploration, both personally and professionally. I'm currently working on sitting as many shifts as possible in Mission Control for the International Space Station! ~ Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

voyagersanh13 karma

What has been your most stressful experience working as a flight director? p.s. you are all so inspiring, thank you for your hard work

nasa24 karma

This is Mary, Infinity Flight. In October 2018, I was supporting console during the Soyuz MS-10 launch anomaly and subsequent abort from here in Mission Control Houston. The Soyuz spacecraft was carrying astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. This resulted in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft. The teams across the world utilized training and preparation in order to react and it was an amazing and successful display of teamwork!

nasa11 karma

Thankfully, as the newest certified Flight Director - most of my stress so far has occurred during our strenuous training program's simulations.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

ozgursaygi12 karma

do you use clock in space ship different from earth ? how do you use regional settings ? :)

nasa26 karma

We use GMT - Greenwich Mean Time, which is the time at the Royal Observatory in London to stay in sync between the crew on the ISS for example and all their supporting ground centers.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

nasa26 karma

On the International Space Station we use GMT, on vehicles that are in space for a shorter amount of time we frequently use 'Mission Elapsed Time' (MET) which is a clock that starts with liftoff. The advantage of MET is that your times are applicable regardless of what your launch date might be.

Emily, Peridot Flight

Trumpologist9 karma

Correct me if I am wrong here, but Artemis is supposed to be like a middle step to eventual other celestial locations. Outside of Mars, have any gotten NASA's interest?

nasa13 karma

Going forward to the Moon and onwards to Mars are in the short term goals! The Gateway project will help leap frog us onwards.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

ZWE_Punchline8 karma

Hi! People like you are my heroes.

Where do you personally see the human presence in the solar system by 2100?

nasa11 karma

Great question! While the specific mission may be different... different planet, different science experiments, different people, the urge to explore will always remain. To those around in 2100, Godspeed! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

MayTheEmpireRule268 karma

Nebulae that you find the most inspiring/beautiful? Mine would definitely be NGC-7653, 'The Bubble Nebula'. How about you?

nasa15 karma

The Helix Nebula!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

BrianDawn958 karma

Im a 47 year old man, and when I was growing up, my room was decorated with images of rockets, planets, and NASA Mission patches from Apollo, SkyLab, and eventually the Space Shuttle.

What inspired you all to enter this profession? What obstacles were worse than you expected? Were there any obstacles that ended being easier than you expected?

nasa14 karma

I also grew up in a room decorated with NASA mission patches, pictures of astronauts and glow in the dark stars!

Space exploration has always been something that interested me. Therefore, I followed my dream and ended up studying Aerospace Engineering. As in any job, there are obstacles - but working hard will get you far!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

nasa13 karma

Apollo-Soyuz was a big inspiration for me - it's awesome that we can run such complex missions from all around the globe. The international collaboration can be complicated, but really worthwhile!

Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

Bammerice8 karma

I have two questions:

1) What research projects are happening on the ISS currently that you believe will have a critical impact for people?

2) How do you get more women involved in STEM fields? I'm a guy but my PhD advisor (female) was a statistical physicist who pushed hard for women to be more involved in science, so I'm interested to hear from NASA directors how you guys get involved with NASA and what can be done to help encourage women to be more involved.

nasa9 karma

  1. One ISS project I think is very exciting is work to develop an implant to address retinal degenerative diseases. If successful, this research could restore eyesight to folks suffering from things like macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa. (see this article for more on this research)
  2. For me, involvement in STEM started very young. I grew up in schools that encouraged all of us equally so by 3rd and 4th grade I had the advantage of specialized science classes and after-school programs to explore problem solving and scientific principles. For me, the earlier we can get any child interested in STEM-related topics the better!

Emily - Peridot Flight

youknowithadtobedone8 karma

When the commercial crew starts flying, will they report to Houston or to The companies?

nasa10 karma

The companies are responsible for the flights to and from ISS, so the crews will talk to them during those operations. Once they arrive, they'll work with Houston and our partner centers for ISS ops. Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

LastLTR7 karma

On an average day at Mission Control, how much space ice cream do you eat?

More serious question, I understand that the SOP is to lock the doors to MCC when there has been a serious accident, is that still necessary in the digital age when data/comms are backed up electronically in real time?

nasa11 karma

Space Ice Cream is definitely NOT a daily treat!

More seriously - good question about the doors. Whenever there's been an issue or an event that will need to be reviewed, we do limit access to MCC, and we also make sure to secure all the relevant data needed to support that review.

Courtenay - Tranquility Flight

WhateverJoel6 karma

How do you keep your interest up during missions that may take months or years to complete?

nasa9 karma

The International Space Station mission has been 20-plus years, but our mission changes so much over time, and the ship herself has changed so much over time that we're constantly challenged and interested.

Emily - Peridot Flight

bright_shiny_objects6 karma

What is your favorite rocket to see launch and why was it the shuttle?

nasa12 karma

All of them! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

LMGMaster6 karma

How does NASA plan rocket launches?

nasa6 karma

Its an interesting puzzle with pieces in orbital mechanics, range availability and international partnerships! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

CaiusAeliusLupus5 karma

I'm ashamed to admit as an aeroeng PhD student, I have no idea how the ISS handles space debris. Does the vessel just tank smaller hits, or is there a way to avoid collision? What happens when there are larger objects that the station would simply not recover from?

Also, thank you for taking time to answer these questions! I know you're all pretty busy, so it's awesome to hear from you all!

nasa5 karma

How ISS handles debris: when we know it's coming, we change our altitude to get ourselves out of the way. We also train our teams and our crews on what the risks are and how to handle it in different situations.

Thanks for sending questions our way, happy to join you!! Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

lewis_10035 karma

what would you say the future is for nasa? what are your future goals, and what do you proudly look back on that inspires you to strive in the future? keep up the great work!

nasa4 karma

NASA's Artemis mission is the first step to begin the next era of exploration - to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon with the goal of sending humans to Mars. And I'm excited to be a part of it all!

-Mary, Infinity Flight

i_enjoy34 karma

Hi, first off I would like to thank your for taking time out of your no doubt busy day to discuss your job and knowledge with us redditors.

As for questions: -What was the most interesting thing you encountered at your time at NASA? -How did you get to where you are? (Collage classes, career paths, etc.) -Have you or others sharing your job position ever been in serious danger?

Thanks again!

nasa15 karma

You are welcome!

One of the most interesting things I have done at NASA was flip the International Space Station around 180 degrees while using gravity and limited thrusters to help guide the rotation! It was very fuel efficient. I personally studied Aerospace Engineering!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

defenestrateddragons4 karma

What are the best things (and maybe worst) things about being female flight directors? Is being a lady working at NASA any different than being a lady working elsewhere?

nasa18 karma

The best thing about it is that I don't have to think about it because all of my co-workers treat me as a peer. ~ Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

Rough_Potato3 karma

Is it true that you have to do a correctional burn every so often to keep the station in orbit? What causes the deviation that warrants this correction? I thought that once an object is in a stable orbit it stays that way forever.

Keep up the great work! -James.

nasa6 karma

The International Space Station regularly completes reboost manuevers to maintain its orbital altitude around 400 km, countering the gradual decline in speed due to drag in the outermost layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

Rough_Potato2 karma

I thought the Karman line was at 100 Km?

nasa3 karma

As ISS is in LEO it experiences atmospheric drag and this drag reduction in orbit causes a decay of about 2km a month!

Rough_Potato1 karma

Oh really? So where does the atmosphere end completely? How far up do you have to go to be completely free from atmospheric drag?

nasa4 karma

That depends on where we are in the solar cycle. We balance ISS altitude planning for drag, consumables, and rendezvous capability of our visiting vehicles.

Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

The_Adaron3 karma

Do you know the game Kerbal space program?If so,

  • Have you ever played it?
  • Do you think it is a good platform to learn about the basics of astronautics?

nasa4 karma

I do know what Kerbal is. I've never played it myself, but my friends say it is a good way to learn the basics (very basic) of astronautics and how orbits work.

Emily - Peridot Flight

heroofussr3 karma

When can we put a woman the moon?

nasa3 karma

The goal is 2024! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

heroofussr1 karma

Can you send my mum?

nasa4 karma

Check out the astronaut qualifications on https://www.usajobs.gov/ !

Alex629z3 karma

What are some of the inflection points you encountered early on in your career that lead you to pursue/obtain your current position?

As a flight director, how do you compartmentalize/organize all of the knowledge required for all the different systems you manage?

nasa9 karma

Learning the systems of a spacecraft can feel like a daunting process. I remember early on in my career when a mentor said to me "if it's in a wire, it's either power or data and if it goes through a switch, it's either opened or closed". Breaking the technical content down in to easier to understand components can be the key for putting all of the systems in to place in a mental model. That's how it worked for me! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

SkydivingGeochemist3 karma

I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Geochemistry. My dream job would be to work in Mission Controls with geology/geochemist/instrumentation aspects. How would one go about obtain that goal? What qualifications are need to work in Mission Controls?

nasa5 karma

Geochemistry - how fascinating! Flight Controllers are all products of a STEM related field. Lots are engineers, but not all. Look at https://www.usajobs.gov/ for openings to join us in MCC! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

labtestedlabapproved3 karma

Can you describe your different career paths that led you all to becoming Flight Directors? Thank you!

nasa7 karma

My career path was fairly simple - I had the opportunity to come to the Johnson Space Center right out of college to work as a Flight Controller on the International Space Station Mission Control Team, after about 8 years (on my second try) I was accepted into the Flight Director Office. I'll get Courtenay to answer too, since her path was more interesting...

Emily - Peridot Flight

nasa5 karma

I did take a more roundabout route - started my career in software development before working as an ISS Flight Controller, then served in a couple different roles supporting the ISS Program and the operations team before being selected as a Flight Director. Key is being able to show strong leadership and technical skills in dynamic environments - which all of us got plenty of opportunity to do along the way!

Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

The_Adaron3 karma

I am curently twenty years old.

I don't think I'll see the first Man on Mars in my lifetime but I am pretty sure that me and my generation will be the first to witness rock solid proof of an extra-terrestrial life. (bacterias on Mars or space shrimp on Europa for example)

Do you think that I'm correct or to optimistic/pessimistic?

nasa4 karma

Only time will tell! We're working really hard to solve all the known issues to get us there! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight

parsasemi2 karma

In your opinion, what are the best subcategories of aero space or the related subjects? As I am a student looking for my further studies. Thank you very much!

nasa3 karma

As you can imagine, we're a little biased for the space side, but aero is pretty awesome too. Keep being curious and you'll wind up finding the path that takes you to the stars!

Courtenay - Tranquility Flight

high_side2 karma

What kind of score on Space Invaders do I need to land an interview at mission control?

nasa11 karma

Every once in a while, put down the game controller and pick up the textbooks. :D

Emily - Peridot Flight

uid_02 karma

Was Gene Kranz as much of a steely-eyed missile man as history portrays him as?

nasa5 karma

White Flight is one of my own personal heroes! - Mary, Infinity Flight

RWriterG2 karma

Hello. Here are a few questions I had:

What are some proposed landing sites for future Artemis missions?

What are the chances of an all women crew on a future Artemis mission?

nasa5 karma

The first stop on the lunar surface will likely be the South Pole region. Believed to contain water ice and potentially rich in other resources, the region is good target for future human landings, and one the agency has already studied heavily with robots.

The crew compliment for Artemis is still being discussed.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight

InGenNateKenny1 karma

Thanks for hosting! Has there been any serious project exploration by NASA on a manned mission to Venus? It seems the Moon and Mars get all the love, both in the media and by government space agencies.

nasa2 karma

Nope - Venus has a seriously harsh environment.

Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

AJ8528521 karma

Pooja Jersrani, are you Indian?

nasa1 karma

Yes, she is.

Emily - Peridot Flight

VonDrakken1 karma

How do you think the role of flight director for human missions will change if and when said missions go to destinations where speed-of-light communication delays increase (e.g., Mars)?

nasa2 karma

The fundamentals won't change - leading the team to a workable solution, making sure the risks are understood, confirming everyone is trained and prepared for the mission. Comm delays will change how we interact with the crew in real time, and we're still working out what that will mean.

Thanks! Courtenay, Tranquility Flight

GB37541 karma

I want to get in touch with someone, preferably an astronaut, to ask about food on the ISS, for an article. Who can I contact? I sent an email to NASA but never heard back.

nasa3 karma

Not sure what email you tried, but maybe try [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we'll put the word out that folks were asking...

Emily - Peridot Flight