In a special four-part feature, Rocket Women are highlighting the untold stories of the dedicated Orbit1 team that remained in Mission Control at NASA Johnson Space Center to tirelessly battle Hurricane Harvey, keeping the space station flying and the astronauts onboard safe.
These resilient individuals slept in Mission Control for days through the hurricane, maintaining communication and support from the ground to the space station and it’s occupants.
The second interview in this series features Jessica Tramaglini. Jessica’s role is to manage the International Space Station’s Power and External Thermal Control or ‘SPARTAN’ in NASA’s Mission Control Center.
What was the path to get to where you are now? How were you inspired to consider a career in the space industry?
We have such a diverse group of people who work in Mission Control in Houston who come from a variety of backgrounds. I personally attended college to study aerospace engineering, receiving a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Penn State University and then started working here. I grew up inspired by space, and knew I wanted to work in Mission Control after attending Space Camp at 12 years-old.
I grew up inspired by space, and knew I wanted to work in Mission Control after attending Space Camp at 12 years-old.
What does your average day look like in your role?
One of the best parts about my role is that there is really no ‘average’ day. Each day brings new and exciting challenges, such as training new flight controllers, working with other groups to update procedures and flight rules, and of course, working console.
Our goal on-console [in Mission Control] was just to keep the crew safe and the vehicle [International Space Station] working
Describe your experience of being on-console during Hurricane Harvey?
Our goal on console was just to keep the crew safe and the vehicle working, minimizing any complicated tasks that could be postponed. The amount of support we received from each other and from people outside checking in on us was amazing.
What was the hardest part of maintaining ISS operations from Mission Control in Houston during Hurricane Harvey?
Especially working the overnight shift where I had to try to sleep during the day, staying in touch with family to let them know I was safe, and keeping in touch with friends who were experiencing flooding was difficult. Once you sat down to console for your shift, you had to block all of that out and focus on the job.
Has this experienced changed you from a professional or personal perspective?
This experience has just reinforced what a special group of people I have the honor of working with. They are incredibly supportive, organized, and everyone steps up to help when they are able.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career so far?
I really can’t pick one single moment, but watching flight controllers you have trained succeed, and working console for Soyuz undockings are extremely rewarding opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
If you want something, set your mind to it, and go for it.
If you had one piece of advice for your 10-year-old self, what would it be?
If you want something, set your mind to it, and go for it. Goals can’t be achieved without taking a risk. You may stumble along the way, but learn from your experiences and keep your eye on the prize.