As news begins circulating this week in the human spaceflight community about impending layoffs in the Constellation Program, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the life-changing impacts that many of my friends and colleagues are facing. “Will I be laid off?” “What future is there for me in human spaceflight?” “How will I provide for my family?” My heart aches as the uncertainty and ambiguity in the situation in human spaceflight continues with each passing day, and the resulting impacts to those who have dedicated their careers to it. What solace can we seek in this environment where we await some kind of resolution from a political environment that borders on toxic at times?
I’m taking a break from recent developments in space policy to share a bit more about what I’m doing currently for NASA’s human spaceflight endeavor. It’s an insider’s view of my perspectives and experiences that perhaps will shed a teeny bit of light given today’s uncertainty and ambiguity on exactly what Government’s role will be in the new human spaceflight policy, if it is enacted by Congress.
At the beginning of the year I was charged with leading a team to develop a strategy for a large portion of mission operations in Houston. If you don’t know, mission operations comprises Mission Control and several other facilities that support NASA’s human spaceflight programs – the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. In a nutshell, mission operations plans human spaceflight missions, trains astronauts and flight controllers, then executes those missions – we call this “plan, train, fly.” Last year, I led a team that defined a future strategy for the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, two of the facilities in mission operations dedicated mainly to training astronauts in extravehicular activity (EVA, or “spacewalks”) and crew systems on board the shuttle and International Space Station. With the approval of that strategy last Fall, I tackled a much larger strategy with a new team – no less than the core “plan, train, fly” functions within mission operations for a future comprised of the International Space Station and the Constellation Program.
Then February 1 happened.