My current position is in the HST Operations and Ground Systems Project at Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland since February '95. On a daily basis, I
monitor engineers who work as contractors in the following subsystems: Electrical Power,
Thermal Control, Data Management System, Instrumentation & Communications, and Safing.
But I am also involved in STOCC Ops (Space Telescope Operations Control Center Operations)
as part of the HST Second Servicing Mission Operations Team.
Basically, the subsystem engineers monitor the satellite in regards to their area of
expertise. This ensures that the Support Systems Module, which encloses the Optical
Telescope Assembly and the science instruments, is performing within specified limits
indicating that subsystems needed to operate the HST are healthy. Major component
subsystems of the Support Systems Module are: Structures and Mechanisms, Instrumentation
and Communications, Data Management, Pointing Control, Electrical Power, Thermal Control,
and Safing (contingency) system.
In preparation for the Second Servicing Mission, scheduled for Winter Quarter of 1997,
several simulations take place to allow everyone to prepare for the SSM2. A variety of
problems are artificially induced into the computer and participants respond accordingly
to fix the problems. These contingencies may or may not occur during the servicing
mission, but procedures have been created to guide the system engineers toward a solution.
STOCC Ops directs the operators to send commands to the satellite in nominal cases as
well as these contingency cases.
My interests in Math and Science go all the way back to elementary and high school. I
maintained an A average throughout High School and chose all of the college preparatory
classes. My Science Fair Project took me from the state to the international level where
it placed fourth; this also provided me with a scholarship for college. My parents had
instilled in all three of their children the importance of getting a college degree. I
graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1981 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts (Political
Science) with honors and in 1985 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with honors. My
first engineering job was with McDonnell Douglas in Huntsville, Alabama in June 1985
where I worked in the Thermal Analysis group until the Challenger explosion. A group was
then formed to work on the problem that caused the catastrophe, and I worked in that
group performing stress calculations.
Two and a half years passed, and the Space Station bid went out. Boeing Aerospace won
the Work Package One contract, and I left McDonnell Douglas and worked in the Systems
Engineering group for Boeing for two and a half years. My experience with Boeing was
invaluable because it provided opportunity. I worked as a lead for the Thermal Control
System, the Fluid Management System, and the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) System. In
1988, Boeing paid for scuba diving lessons, and I earned my certification in preparation
for the 1988 Space Station Freedom Neutral Buoyancy Test where I became the small subject
(5'4") for the underwater simulations. This entailed wearing a space suit underwater. We
were interested in the end cone areas where the modules connected and finding out whether
or not a large or small astronaut could fit during EVA maintenance. In May 1990, I applied
for a position with NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and began working as
a civil servant in the Space Station Freedom (Level III) project development office where
I was responsible for the Thermal Control System, Fluid Management System, and Maintenance
in the areas of schedule, budget, and technical solutions.
In 1992, I married a Veterinarian named Rob on February 29 who was working for the
USDA in Kentucky. Since we wanted to live in the same state, we both transferred to the
Washington D.C. area. My job in Reston, Virginia, at the NASA Space Station Freedom
Program Office (Level II) was very challenging. Using my Political Science degree and my
Mechanical Engineering degree, I was able to successfully perform as the Project
Integration Manager (PIM) for Work Package One which kept me linked to MSFC but allowed
me to understand the bigger political picture in the Space Station arena by allowing me
to interface with Work Package 2 (Johnson Space Flight Center) and Work Package 4 (Lewis
Research Center) representatives as well as upper management. Both of my PIM counterparts
were at the Grade 14/15 level; after a period of "proving myself ", management submitted
the necessary paperwork to Level I in order to promote me to that level. However, as most
everyone knows, the office at Reston was closed in the Fall of 1993 and was moved to the
Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where a new space station with the Russians began
development (thus interrupting my upward career path). Reston civil servants had a choice
of working at Headquarters or working at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
I chose GSFC and began work in December of 1993 as a Contamination Engineer. I was
leading the effort for the FUSE project and then it was canceled by Congress. I applied
for another job at GSFC in order to gain some operations experience since the majority of
my work had been in the development phase of a project.
So that's how I ended up working in the Hubble Space Telescope Office as the SSMM. In
the year that passed I also had a baby girl, and she is 7 months old as of March 9; she's
wonderful. My biggest hurdles have been the direct result of "starting all over" and
understanding the HST management organization, procedures, and acronyms. I look forward
to the Second Servicing Mission in 1997 in the STOCC Ops position. My work is very broad
and involves attending several meetings to hear about the status of a particular
subsystem or spacecraft problems. Because the majority of the contractors worked the
First Servicing Mission, communication patterns have already been established, and it's
up to me to continue trying to become a part of the network. I am also finishing up a
Master's Degree in Engineering Management in the Fall of '96.
Juggling a family, a job, and school is very tough as well as chairing the Public
Relations Committee in the Junior League of Annapolis in my spare time. My priorities
have shifted over the past year, and I am learning how valuable time is and how I should
spend it. I used to enjoy scuba diving, snow skiing, and swimming.
My advice to students would be to study hard and play hard. Get a well-rounded
education by choosing electives that are totally different from your major. Work in the
summers at a job that is similar to the one you plan to fill after graduation. Recognize
that your degree is just a stepping stone and does not necessarily rule your future niche.
Methodical study habits are required in the Engineering curriculum, and time management
is your biggest hurdle. Expand your horizons to include extra-curriculum activities such
as sororities, fraternities, etc where you will learn how to effectively communicate.
Expect that Life is full of challenges and disappointments. Be flexible when the hard
times hit, and maintain your hope in the future. Don't ever feel that you have
arrived--keep your avenues open for learning new things and continue learning as long as