Whew! The JSC Tweetup is over & I’ve finally had some time to sit down and collect my thoughts.
It’s been a very hectic week, from working STS-130 to the Tweetup to managing to squeeze in a few world domination discussions with @flyingjenny since she was at my house, there wasn’t much time to stop and take it all in.
I’m very sorry that I couldn’t participate on the tour, but such is life and being a Flight Controller for a few years now I’ve learned that you really can’t plan anything, from vacations to family events to holidays to Tweetups, everything’s on hold until wheel stop – and then there’s another one!
For now at least, there’s another one. A few other ones. Even though I wasn’t able to join the actual tour, I was able to attend the events the night before and the night of the Tweetup. I was very excited to meet everyone who I’ve been talking to only virtually for almost a year now. Finally, I get to show you what we do!
I used to be a tour guide at the US Space and Rocket Center (Space Camp) Museum, and I’m used to and very comfortable with engaging the public about space. One of my tours, about 45 minutes long, was made up of over 100 people. While I love being a Flight Controller and I worked very hard to get here, my USSRC job will always be remembered as one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. I got to get up in the morning, put on a (albeit fake) Flight Suit, and for hours and hours do nothing but tell the public about space. We had an Apollo 16 Command Module, part of Skylab that fell on Australia, a moon rock, all kinds of mockups, it was great. The looks on people’s faces, especially the kids, to see them get excited about space because of something YOU told them, it never got old.
So to have such a large group of people who I feel like I know and who are friends come and see where I work was so exciting to me. And I’d seen the agenda ahead of time but to you it was a surprise, so just imagining your reactions while I was working kept me smiling all day long. A lot of times at the space museum we would have people come through who maybe weren’t space buffs and you felt good when you could try and bring them over to our side, but I knew you all were space buffs so the experience would be that much more special. I knew because so many of you were me at one time.
I didn’t go to MIT or Purdue or anything like that. I went to some small school in Louisiana that you’ve probably never heard of but did have an excellent Engineering program. I’m by no means a genius – I had to work through my classes and found them to be very challenging (we won’t even talk about Circuits and Chemistry is something I’d like to forget altogether!). But I always wanted to work at NASA and I thought that a degree in Engineering was the best way to go about doing that. So I kept going, telling myself it would be worth it one day.
After I graduated we moved to Houston, where I’d gotten a job at another company doing design work for airplanes. It was fun, but it wasn’t NASA. So I kept trying – kept applying, kept working towards that dream that I knew one day would come true. And then I got the call; I would have taken anything, but I never expected Mission Control. Those guys were geniuses…they were special, they never failed because it wasn’t an option right? For about the first 6 months at work everyone told me what a huge smile I had on my face. I loved just being there – every meeting, every assignment, every project, felt like it was so important and that it had a purpose. Sitting inside Mission Control was overwhelming; I felt so unworthy!
You might be asking by now what does this have anything to do with the Tweetup? I’m getting there, trust me. You all know that the last couple of weeks have been very hard for those of us who follow the space program. The future is uncertain and there are only a few Shuttle flights left. I don’t know if I’ll have a job in 6 months – the people I work with, my good friends, they don’t know either. We’re not told much more than you are and like I said in my last post, that’s hard. I don’t want to leave my friends – there aren’t many people who do what we do and that brings us together.
So, we’re in this uncertain environment with not many Shuttle launches left. Our jobs as we know and love them today will be gone forever. It’s been tense and scary and to be honest, not fun. Enter #nasatweetup!
I was so honored to be selected as an Ambassador, it meant so much. And meeting everyone was great, but something happened that I didn’t anticipate – how much of an impact seeing and hearing everyone else be so excited would affect me. Meeting everyone and seeing their excitement brought me back to when I was new at JSC and seeing everything for the first time. Someone told me to try and never lose that sense of wonder, but it’s hard. It’s hard when you work crazy hours for 2 weeks straight and you’re tired and everyone else on your shift is tired and it starts to take its toll. It’s hard when you have an evaluation coming up soon and you don’t feel ready but there’s pressure for you to do well from everyone else in the group. It’s hard when you mess up in a sim and you know you can do better but you just weren’t on your game that day. So after years of this, it’s hard to keep that sense of wonder.
Talking to people at the Tweetup brought a lot of that sense back, and it made me realize how lucky I am. The future is uncertain but tomorrow I get to go to Mission Control and monitor data from a vehicle that’s orbiting the earth. You know what? That is cool. That is REALLY cool. How many other people can say they do that? I don’t know, but I do and I need to remember how special it is. There aren’t many Shuttle flights left and if we don’t savor every moment of each one we’ll regret it forever…because you can’t get it back.
Lots of you told me thank you for doing what I do and how much you all appreciated it; I say thank YOU. Thank you for lifting my spirits when I needed it the most. Thank you for making me realize how lucky I am. Thank you for caring about what I do. Thank you for being passionate about human spaceflight. Thank you for taking your time and your money to see what it is we do over here. Thank you for telling me your stories and thoughts and feelings about the past and the future of space exploration. Thank you for asking me questions and engaging in conversation.
It’s because of people like you and your support that I am able to even have this job at all, for however much longer it lasts. And for that – for the past 6 years and for next few months, thank you.