September 19, 2016 9:37 pm

What Goes on Inside NASA Mission Control? Find out Tuesday from Astro Mike and Friends

Picture of Flight Director Emily Nelson in NASA Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center.

ISS flight director Emily Nelson monitors data at her console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center during STS-132/ULF-4 mission flight day five activities. Credit: NASA.

One of the benefits of having a former NASA astronaut like Astro Mike Massimino as one of our StarTalk All-Stars hosts is that he brings his friends along to the party.

Last time Mike hosted, that meant getting to know John Charles, the Chief Scientist at NASA’s Human Research Program, for our episode about Putting Humans on Mars.

This week, Mike takes us inside the nerve center of manned space exploration: Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

This is the place from which NASA’s first Flight Director, Chris Kraft, ran the operations for every Mercury flight and managed a team of Flight Directors for the Gemini program.

This is the “Houston” Jim Lovell was talking to when he said, “Houston, we have a problem” during the Apollo 13 mission.

And it’s the room where Flight Director Gene Krantz inspired his “Tiger Team” to solve that problem, declaring, at least in the movie, “Failure is not an option.”

It is the realm of the “steely eyed missile men” – and women – whose job it is to keep our astronauts safe while they’re out in space, and return them safely to Earth again.

Even though he was “just” an astronaut, Mike got to work in Mission Control too, as CAPCOM, or “Capsule Communicator” and worked closely with the Flight Directors, who have, at least according to Mike’s guests, the best job in NASA.

Those guests may be a little biased, howeber, since the two of them, Emily Nelson and Royce Renfrew, have been Flight Directors at JSC since 2007/2008.

They’ve got some stories to tell, from inexplicable superstitions to inappropriate pranks, from emergencies avoided to lessons learned. You’ll hear about how Flight Directors help astronauts fight against bone loss and muscle atrophy on extended missions, like Scott Kelly’s “Year in Space” aboard the ISS. You’ll hear about what it takes to keep astronauts functioning at peak capacity, and why a happy astronaut is a more productive astronaut. You’ll hear about NASA’s plans for a manned mission to Mars, and about the bases and way stations that may make it possible. You’ll even learn what it takes to become a Flight Director, and how they choose their Twitter handles like @Tunsgten_Flight (Royce’s) and @PeridotFlight (Emily’s).

Plus, Emily and Royce answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries, chosen by co-host Maeve Higgins.

Please join us Tuesday, September 20th, for “Inside NASA Mission Control, with Mike Massimino” on iTunes Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundClout, Stitcher, TuneIn and right here on our website.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons