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Mission Control Monday: Increment Lead Life

Hi world!

I'm peeking my head above the waves today - its been a busy couple weeks at work. Which means I only get a couple precious hours at home with those adorbs babeez of mine, which also means this blog gets 0% of said, limited time.

But I'm here - at least for the next 10 minutes as I type out a few words on life lately.

I'm over halfway done with my stint as ADCO Increment 58 Lead - only about 3 weeks left if the next Soyuz launches as planned. Honestly, even though it's busy, the experience is second to none. I have been able to spread my wings and learn more about the International Space Station as a whole system instead of just the bits and pieces that relate to the attitude control portion. My eyes have been opened to the jobs that sound simple on the surface but start to get really complicated when you dive into the nuts and bolts. For instance, scheduling the astronaut's days is an immense task, coordinating the stowage location of spare equipment for maintenance tasks can take weeks, and something as benign as crew exercise can have several time constraints levied. The space station is a gigantic puzzle with so many excruciating details and rules and analysis and "if this, then that's" - its definitely a unique engineering challenge.

If the technical advancements and daily discoveries on ISS are the appendages - the truly international collaboration is the blood pumping through the veins. For those in the day-to-day meetings it may be easy to miss, but for someone just getting her feet wet in the "bigger picture" it really is incredible. Literally every single day there are problems or issues or challenges onboard, and the community converges on a telecon line, ensures the appropriate participants are dialed in and talks through the solutions without erecting false barriers - political, cultural or even geographical. While there is a chain of command there is no feeling of suppression - anyone who sees a legitimate issue or solution is welcome to voice it - from senior executives down to the engineering intern.

I wish this model could be applied to so many other industries - think of the creative solutions and unquantifiable buy-in that would exist. And to be fair - NASA didn't always operate this way - it took failures and close calls and lives to arrive in the current operating space. The transformation took years and leaders and dollars - and the lessons keep coming - NASA continues to adapt from every mission it flies. Even now, I'm documenting my "lessons learned" as a part of my exercise in being the ADCO Increment Lead. I am finding documents to be updated or clarified, new ways of passing along information, and efficiencies to aid future Increment Leads. We aren't ok with "that's the way it has always been done" or "trust me, I'm your commanding officer" - and I'm so thankful because those phrases are poison to an organization.

This week my meetings are focused on a big milestone - the first Demonstration mission of a US crewed vehicle. A lot of us in my group were still in grade school the last time this happened - 1999 was the first Shuttle mission to the ISS. Back then ISS only had 2 modules, hundreds less computers and 6 less control moment gyroscopes. The longterm operations concept of the orbiting laboratory was only a glimmer in someone's eye, because, well, we had to get the ship built first. I hope to share some thoughts with you over the week about what this mission means to me personally, and capture a tiny bit of the excitement we are feeling at NASA in these 6 days before launch!


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