Hey y'all, I am fairly new to reddit and it seems you guys love NASA, so I figured you might be interested in hearing the side of things from one of the many folks responsible for putting people in space!

I started working for Lockheed in 1987 and was a part of one of the design crews working on the new F-22. Me and my coworkers' responsibility laid in designing the interior of the cockpit (ultimately our proposal was rejected). I left my high-paying job at Lockheed for personal reasons, and took a lower paying job at NASA in 1993. My primary work actually rested in revamping the toilets on the Space Shuttle, and making them more efficient, etc. I resigned from NASA in 2011 because I disagreed with the direction things were going, and I consider it an early retirement, I suppose.

Anyway, ask me anything, I'll be happy to put grand strategy games aside for now and respond as best I can!

EDIT: Holy Jesus this blew up since I last checked in the wee hours of the night. I'll get to answering right now.

EDIT2: Here's some proof as requested, I took a picture of one of my degrees I hope that suffices:


EDIT3: Thank you all for your questions, I had a great time answering your questions and will continue to answer the ones that filter in. I also wanted to use this space to pay tribute to one of the greatest coworkers I ever had (one of the few at Lockheed who treated me right). He died in a car crash in 1993, and all this talk about my past really brought back some memories. I hope the afterlife is treating you okay, Connor.

Comments: 673 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

thebrucemoose950 karma

Howard Wolowitz?

NASA_Carlos241 karma

I had to look this one up. I did have a similar hairstyle in the late 70s...

jiminy_christmas129 karma

Does the poop just float around in space?

NASA_Carlos174 karma

This is exactly what we needed to avoid. In layman's terms, we have to create a flow of air that sucks the waste into the waste storage tanks (liquids are filtered and put into space, solids are stored and disposed of upon return to earth). Basically there are plastic bags for urination and defecation, and the astronaut does his/her business in there (there is a fan that helps with urination). For solids, the bag is then sucked into the storage tank with a quick blast of air, compressed, and stored for later disposal. For liquids, the air is filtered and returned to the cabin, as much liquid as can be salvaged is filtered, and the rest goes into the voids of space.

robreddity168 karma

What about the waste that falls somewhere on the spectrum between solid and liquid?

NASA_Carlos22 karma

Anything that cannot be filtered and reused for water is considered a solid.

preske35 karma

Why exactly does poop need to be disposed of in this way? I guess it has to do with preventing damage to satellites and the space station? (Death by poopoo)

NASA_Carlos11 karma

Having random pieces of solid matter floating randomly in orbit is INCREDIBLY dangerous, for satellites, astronauts outside of the space station, etc. You've probably heard of how polluted our orbit is already; we are trying to avoid making that worse.

jiminy_christmas26 karma

Interesting. Has the idea of a bidet ever come up?

NASA_Carlos126 karma

Given the whole lack of gravity thing, I can't say that it has.

Ghostshirts94 karma

It's been a lifelong dream for humans to blow up the moon. Will we accomplish this in our lifetime?

NASA_Carlos223 karma

I have a better idea. Sell the moon to China in exchange for forgiving all US debt. You can't go wrong.

Ebouefan80 karma

Do Astronauts masturbate in the ISS?If yes,how do they manage the body fluids?

NASA_Carlos28 karma

We didn't ask where the "fluids" came from...

Funcoot78 karma

A user on another forum claimed to have worked as IT for NASA for a short period of time. He said a lot of the systems they had in place were 10+ years old and that a lot of staff lacked competence. He said morale was pretty low, and the pay wasn't as good as people would think. He said he was glad to leave and felt the place really lost its innovation and spark when you compare it to these newer private companies that are arising.

I always take people on forums with caution, as they could merely be lying. What are your thoughts on what he said?

NASA_Carlos97 karma

The 10+ years old statement seems an exaggeration - though maybe in his department things were different (obviously in the engineering field we had the latest technology and systems).

He is spot on about the morale and the pay, though. My job in the private sector paid much better, and I was only working on mere planes, not space shuttles. In terms of morale, it was in a constant downward spiral from the moment I got there in the early 90s. I wouldn't say there was no spark, but it sure wasn't anything like NASA in the 50s and 60s is made out to be. All this declining morale culminated in the massive job cuts last year. Even before I was cut (well, I resigned before letting myself be cut..an honor thing I suppose), I was considering leaving, this being one of the many reasons.

TRBS66 karma

I have a few questions if you don't mind:

  • What was your job at Lockheed? What would be a typical day for you while you were there?
  • You mentioned you would consider coming out of early retirement to work at a private aeronautics company. With your experience, would it be difficult to get hired?
  • As I understand it sounds like you left Lockheed for NASA because you felt that the work you would do at NASA would have more meaning than building aircraft at Lockheed. Is this accurate?

  • A few people I know that used to work with the Canadian Space Agency a few years ago mentioned that many of the engineers at NASA have been there for a long time and will be retiring soon. They described it as being a fairly serious issue for NASA, and are actively looking for young recruits. Would you say this is true?

NASA_Carlos25 karma

At Lockheed, one could have called me an "interior designer." Each engineering crew focused on a different part of the plane (we were working on the F22 at the time), and my crew and I focused on the cockpit. A typical day would be going in, bouncing ideas off of each other, and eventually actually building and testing various parts. Then we would send our results up the ladder, and the higher-ups would decide what to do next.

I left Lockheed for a number of reasons, but the primary reason: I am part Hispanic, and the entire time I worked there, people treated me as if I was only there because of affirmative action or something, not because I worked my ass off to get there. Years of this took its toll (especially in the late 80s), and I finally quit because of the subtle, yet hurtful discrimination. The reason I stayed so long was because of the pay, but money isn't worth being treated like shit, so I left.

As to your last question, this is absolutely true. I got very disillusioned with NASA, and I have no idea what direction they will take from here. This disillusionment is one of the main reasons I left.

Pathologistical57 karma

How do you feel about SpaceX, Virgin, and Scaled Composites? My father is a fabricator and aeronautical tech for Scaled, so i'm curious.

Are you competitive? Curious? Jealous? etc.

NASA_Carlos101 karma

An excellent question:

I see no problem with privatized space companies (fair competition never hurt anyone), but I hate that our government doesn't seem to see the value of our space program - especially the value in building their own shuttles. I'm kind of annoyed that building shuttles is contracted out privately. Nothing against the companies, it's more the idea, and the greater truths it represents about our government's priorities.

Still, if I get bored in my early retirement, I might consider working for one of these companies, so I'll keep my criticisms on the low for now.

Ghostshirts47 karma

how frequently does the worry of creating a pink sock come up while trying to figure out how to suction waste without gravity?

NASA_Carlos102 karma

I must say, the term "pink sock" was something I wish I had not had to Google. Since the toilet does not actually suction the waste directly from the person, I cannot imagine too many astronauts have had this problem, at least not as a result from our toilet design...

bthejoker40 karma

Proof please

NASA_Carlos30 karma

I'd be happy to prove this, though I'm not sure how. Neither NASA nor Lockheed allowed cameras in their labs, so I don't have any photos of me "at work." I could dig out my engineering degree and scan that in - would that be sufficient?

bthejoker19 karma

Do you have an ID badge from when you use to work there?

NASA_Carlos46 karma

Yes I do. Somewhere... I will dig everything out tomorrow (it's after 3 AM by me, don't want to wake the wife moving and searching through boxes). I'll scan in my ID card and my degree. Will that be sufficient?

[deleted]27 karma


NASA_Carlos3 karma

The jobs are there, and you don't necessarily need an aerospace engineering degree (though it helps, I'd suggest going for it if you are absolutely keen on working in the field.

My degrees are in Civil Engineering and Industrial Engineering, actually.

Charlesm31313118 karma

So what do you do now? I imagine working in that field since '87 your kinda bored now, what are you plans for the future?

NASA_Carlos47 karma

I never got bored - the idea that I will never live to see space exploration in its prime always got me down ever since I was a kid, but the idea that my work (admittedly a very small part in a larger machine) could somehow make that dream a reality for future generations kept me going through the years.

I did become very disillusioned with the way things went towards the end - for instance, many of my coworkers were laid off last year after the budget cuts (some had been there for many years before I got there). Those of us that remained became increasingly marginalized at work, and when they announced another series of job cuts, that was the last straw for me. I resigned in protest rather than be "dismissed." I still never lost my passion with the subject; rather, just the organization I worked for. I am technically in a state of retirement now, but I'm only 52 and would consider going back to work, maybe for one of the up and coming private companies, if the right opportunity arose.

misleadingweatherman17 karma

Any advice for a college student wanting to go into the aerospace industry? (more specifically NASA).

Which job did you like working at better? Lockheed or NASA?

NASA_Carlos8 karma

Honestly, it's not that much different from any other job in the world. Get good grades, make good connections, form relationships that will get you excellent letters of recommendation, etc. The jobs are there, you just have to work to get them.

Sorry to re-hash what you've probably heard all your life, but it's the truth.

Funcoot13 karma

Thank you for doing this and answering questions!

Where do you think NASA kind of went wrong? Is it spiraling downward because of budget cuts, or is there a lot more to it than that? Does it have to do with the management?

NASA_Carlos25 karma

It all stems from money in the end. Not just the budget cuts, mind you. The only incentive for an excellent administrator to stay with NASA over going to a private company is the "ideal," I guess best represented by NASA during the Apollo program. Still, when there is less money and less resources than there are at a private company, this "ideal" gets chipped away at. Thus, NASA loses its best administrators/managers to private companies. Thus, the administrators/managers that NASA does have are of a lesser quality, and the workers suffer.

See how it all relates to money and resources? The problem with management is just one of many.