Ken Neiss est Flight Controller à la NASA. Agé de 30 ans, il est CATO (Communications And Tracking Officer) pour la Station Spatiale Internationale... Ken nous parle ici de son métier, de son travail.
Interview réalisée en 2010.
Q : How many years were you connected to the space program prior to select as Flight Controller and why have you choose this job ?
A : This has been my first job with the space program. I had been visiting the NASA career fait booths at my University each year in hopes to get an interview and get a job offer (4 or so years), but nothing had come of it. I guess 3rd grade when my entire class became part of Youth Astronauts program and got little cards laminated stating that.
I chose this job because it's exciting, inherently motivating, and is not the run-of-the-mill 9-to-6 job that I knew I would not like.
My tasks change day to day and week to week. New things come up, it never gets old, and it's flat out fun.
I had other job offers when I graduated from University, but I knew right away that once I got this offer, that I wanted it.
Q : How did you have trained as Flight Controller ?
A : The training program for a flight controller is fairly rigourous.
When I hired into the Communications And Tracking Officer Group (CATO) for the International Space Station, I started reading training manuals almost 8 hours a day.
We then got grouped with other new flight controllers for both the Space station and the Space Shuttle for 1 month of high level classes on all the different systems of the program.
When the split up and began our reading and hands on training to become certified to send commands to the Space Station, which the training last about 3 months or so.
After that, I started participating in generic simulations, where an entire flight control team runs a simulator with all the normal tools and displays, and we run test cases and failures and see how you react to certain situations, along with testing and adding to your technical knowledge and your poise/composure.
I was the backroom (support) personnel. Our group has 2 backrooms and 1 frontroom positions. At this point, you also begin to work more with hands-on equipment and tools, getting more familiar with the details and ins and outs of the equipment.
After you are certified in a backroom position, you get to work that position for normal day-to-day operations and work it for when the Shuttle comes and docks for their missions. Once you are certify in all backroom positions (around 2 years from hire date), you get to start simulating in the frontroom where you are the main person responsible for your system.
You get to make all the hard decisions and give direction to the astronauts.
After you pass all those different tests, you are fully certified and can work day-to-day in the frontroom (positions you see on NASA TV). You also can work in the front for shuttle missions, and can be the lead for certain timeframes.
I was the lead for my group the last shuttle mission (STS-129/ULF3), which was about 8 months worth of planning and work.
These days, we are now doing the Operator/Specialist/Instructor (OSI) concept in which we hone our training of nrw hires and guide them through learning multiple positions systems in about 1 year or so. The training is more strutured, and there is more hands on training with mentors.
Q : What is exactly your job as Flight Controller ?
A : I am with the CATO group. We are responsible for the maintening the Communications, links (audio, video, commanding & telemetry, ship-to-ship, and payload data stream).
We plan for the comm aspects of big events such as vehicle dockings, undockings, spacewalks, missions, increments, etc.
We also get to play with the external video cameras and look for great Earth views, and record hurricane video.
We get to work in the famous Mission Control Room. As Flight Controller, we also get to work with and train the astronauts for their time in space. It's fin getting to know them and them getting to know us.
Q : What is your best memory as Flight Controller ?
A : Recording hurricane videos from space and seeing them being fed live to CNN or replayed on network television.
It's a really cool feeling to see that.
I love using the external cameras.
Q : What is your worse memory as Flight Controller ?
A : Being wrong and making mistakes.
Everyone does it and everyone doesn't like it, but mistakes sting. I have had my fair share of mistakes and commands errors, and luckily they have not had any major impact, but it's doesn't help the feeling.
Also, in training though mistakes did lead to crews not having communincations assets for hours at a time, so that is probably the worst memory.
Q : What is your most amazing space dream ?
A : To one day get to space and be able to see in person the views I can only see through our external cameras.
and, to do the ''Superman'' in space.