| Mission Control Center |
How many people work in Mission
Control during a mission?
There are about 50 people on a team, three teams working about 9 hour shifts.
In addition, there are many engineering people who support the mission in
case there is a peculiar problem. Each team has a flight director and CAPCOM.
What do mission controllers
do between missions?
We only spend about 10% of our time in controlling shuttle missions. We
spend about another 15% of our time in training using the mission control
center, the shuttle simulators here at JSC and a team of trainers to give
us problems to overcome, just like it was a real flight. The other 75%
of our time is spent in planning and organizing the missions.
What kind of education does
one need to become a flight controller?
To be considered for a job as a flight controller, you must have an engineering
or other technical degree. People who are interested in working as flight
controllers at the Johnson Space Center are placed in the Mission Operations
organization, either with NASA or the operations contractor. There, they
are assigned to a specific technical discipline based on educational background
and interest, and spend some number of years in training, with progressively
increasing responsibilities depending on demonstrated ability. In addition
to demonstrating one’s knowledge of his or her technical discipline, other
skills which are evaluated during the training process to become a flight
controller are communication, interpersonal, initiative, organizational,
and team management.
Is it possible for a flight
controller or even a flight director to become an astronaut?
It IS possible for flight controllers to become astronauts, and this has
happened many times. A few flight controllers get to become flight directors.
What are the responsibilities of the Flight Dynamics Officer?
The FDO determines where the shuttle is, where it is going, and where
it has been. With the trajectory defined, the FDO also generates, executes,
and confirms all translational maneuvers (maneuvers that change the orbit
size) to meet specific payload requirements. Once these maneuvers are
defined, the FDO is responsible for determining landing opportunities
and just as important, evaluate the weather conditions at landing sites
around the world. Further, the FDO coordinates with the United Space Space
Command at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs
to determine if orbital debris poses a threat to the shuttle. Other real
time activities that the FDO performs include providing shuttle sighting
opportunities (which you can view on the shuttle web site) and state vector
postings for a variety of satellites (including Mir) so other people can
plot the shuttle ground track on home computers.
Are food and drinks allowed
inside Mission Control?
Yes we do allow food and drinks inside the Mission Control Center. Depending
upon what is happening during the mission, most flight controller's shifts
average between 8 and 12 hours with only 5- to 10-minute breaks every
90 minutes. So you can see that without food and drinks, there would be
a lot of rumbling stomachs in the Control Center. One of our long-standing
traditions in the MCC is the Food List. This is where each Flight Controller
takes a day and delights his colleagues with cuisine of his own choosing.
This way he only cooks (or buys) once and is covered for the rest of the
Is the MCC position 'Flight
Surgeon' always manned by a medical doctor?
During the times that the crewmembers are awake during each flight day,
a medical doctor who specializes in aerospace medicine is always on console
at the Surgeon position. However, there are also biomedical engineers
(BME's), with training in the medical kits and systems onboard Shuttle,
that staff the mission around the clock. This main team usually consists
of a crew surgeon, deputy crew surgeon, and a BME mission manager. They
are assigned to work all the medical aspects of a specific flight, and
are augmented with extra surgeons and BME's at Mission Control while the
main team is away from MCC during the launch and landing of the shuttle.