Thought this was cool: What is it like to work at NASA?
It’s a privilege and an honor to work at NASA.
It’s like getting to work with the scientists you see on the Science Channel. Actually, it is getting to work with them. Many times the experts who are interviewed and quoted on these shows are co-workers. Every day I get to work with the best and brightest people I’ve ever known. I remember sitting at a dinner table, after a long day of meetings and lectures. It was for a week-long training class at an off-site conference center. There were about 40 of us altogether. To my left was a gal working with the European Space Agency on an experiment to be flown on Atlantis. She spoke 3 or 4 languages and had a PhD (can’t recall the field). To my right was a Launch Director from Kennedy Space Center. Across the table was a scientist working on rocket propulsion at (I believe) Marshall Space Center. The remaining 5 individuals at our table were equally impressive. I thought to myself “what the heck am I doing here among these stars?” They were the nicest, most transparent people you’d ever run across. Those with whom I work daily are the best in the world. Whenever we experience hardware or software failures that we can’t isolate quickly, we bring in support personnel from the original designer. It never fails that the folks we bring in for help learn much more from our people than we learn from them. Time after time I’ve heard a visiting engineer say “the people you have here are incredible, every one of them. I learned some tricks with my own product that I never knew before.”
What’s it like to work at NASA? I feel like a kid in a candy store. The projects I get to work on are incredibly interesting, challenging and critical to the success of an experiment or mission. The research facilities are unparalleled in their capabilities and the accomplishments they’ve helped achieve. The tools we get to work with are the best. Our simulators and trainers are like “E” ticket rides at entertainment parks. Especially the centrifuges. We get to do things I would never have imagined had I not been hired here. Things that matter. Things that inspire people. Things that change our perception of our life on earth and our place in the universe.
It’s like being entrusted with the crown jewels. We know the American people support our work and our livelihoods through their tax dollars. We know we must do everything possible to ensure those hard earned dollars are spent wisely and effectively. We know that our work results from decisions made by the President, by our elected officials in Congress, and by our leaders at HQ, and that all of them are depending on our drive and initiative to meet the milestones set in front of us. We know that the lives of our astronauts depend on how well we do our jobs. Safety doesn’t just come first at NASA, safety is what NASA is all about. Every aspect of every project is evaluated for its impact on safety. I regularly see “Flight Readiness Reviews” and “Human Occupancy Reviews,” all aimed at ensuring the people that fly in, use and support the vehicles we design will go home every night to their families.
It’s like being the patent holder of inventions that change peoples lives every day. Many of the experiments done at NASA’s Research Centers, Space Centers, and in orbit result in breakthroughs that help fight disease, that result in advancements in agriculture (e.g., hydroponics), materials or the means by which to make materials stronger or lighter, flight management, propulsion, the list just goes on and on.
To me, it’s like winning the lottery. But not a financial lottery. I won’t get rich working at NASA. We make substantially less than our private industry counterparts. However, I get to do things and see things that most would love to experience. Every day. I go into a supermarket on my way home from work and stand at the check-out counter waiting to pay for my goods. The person at the register happens to see my badge and says “you work at NASA? You are so lucky.” And you know what, she’s right. I am lucky. I’m so proud to work at NASA, and so humbled in the presence of so many brilliant, dedicated people. God willing, and if they’ll have me, I’ll work here until I retire. Every day I pass by the flags, the American flag and the NASA flag, as I drive through the main gate, and I feel so proud of my country, my agency and even myself, for earning the opportunity to make a difference, and have fun while I’m at it.
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