Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Catching the Trade Winds


Ever since Mr. Blackwell and I made the decision to pursue new opportunities in Houston, I have been repeating Twain's words over and over in my head. I'm just not as naturally free-spirited as my dear hubbs, I'm working on it, but I'm not quite there yet.

Moving to Houston was an extremely hard decision - much more difficult than moving from Phoenix to Huntsville. We like the small town feel of Huntsville (for the most part...don't get me started on endo's), the rolling green countryside, and the citywide view of the impressive Saturn V model at the Space and Rocket Center. We put a lot of work into our house, are very involved in the community (volunteers at the Space and Rocket Center, church, bellchoir, band, etc.), and have fond memories of meeting each other here, in the Rocket City. And after all those things, there is also the job.

Sure, I am excited as heck to have a new job involved with manned spaceflight, but I'm also a little disheartened to be leaving the job that has built me up, made me a stronger person, challenged me to push boundaries, and let me brag about flying in helicopters all day.

Being a Flight Test Engineer is a unique opportunity. I honestly can't say that I signed up to get an Aerospace Engineering degree in hopes of one day bossing around pilots and analyzing the data they capture...rather, the job kind of finds you. And through my three plus years here, I have heard that same sentiment repeated among even the most senior Flight Test Engineers. "A guy called me up." "A friend took the job and told me it was actually really cool." "It was sort of by a whim." As for others, this job found me. It saved me from being a backroom satellite software coder and moved me 1600 miles to the little city that had tickled my fancy ever since my summer as a Space Camp counselor. It gave me the tools necessary to take the next step with confidence.

As a self-proclaimed space nerd (umm, reference title of blog), I often read about early space pioneers and attempt to model my life after their success. My job as a flight test engineer paralleled many of the biggest names in manned spaceflight: Michael Collins, Gene Kranz, Dr. Robert Gilruth, among others. These guys performed a natural progression from flight test activities to mission control and astronaut duties - the same progression I am about to endeavor upon. Yes, it's true...flight test engineering had found me for a reason, even before I knew it.

And all of this leads me to a very special announcement: I am taking a new job at the Johnson Space Center in Houston as an Attitude, Determination and Control Officer for the International Space Station mission control. I will start training in July, and hope to be certified by December 2014. [It's a long training process to be the pilot of the ISS!]

I hope you will all follow along as I attempt to blog about this new, exciting space adventure - and hopefully, I won't get off on some in-depth space tangents (but, no guarantees).