recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
We are flight directors leading NASA’s Mission Control Center. Ask Us Anything!

UPDATE: That's all the time we have for questions today! Thanks so much for joining the conversation and be sure to get the latest updates about what's happening 250 miles above our home planet by visiting

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, meet five female flight directors leading NASA’s Mission Control Center. As flight directors, they lead teams monitoring and controlling the International Space Station, as well as run simulations and develop processes for Commercial Crew flights to the station and Artemis missions to land the first woman and next man on the Moon.

What questions do have for the women leading Mission Control today?

Participants include:

  • Pooja Jesrani – NASA Flight Director
  • Mary Lawrence – NASA Flight Director
  • Courtenay McMillan – NASA Flight Director
  • Emily Nelson – NASA’s Deputy Chief Flight Director
  • Rebecca Wingfield – NASA Flight Director


August 26th 2019
interview date

They seek you for a solution when there is a problem "Houston, We Have a Problem"...

but what if you are the one haveing having the problem (power outage, flood, fire...etc), can you work from a diffrent location/diffrent directors?


Hi, this is Mary, Infinity Flight! Thank you for the question. A large part of our job is to plan for the possibility of contingencies both in space and on Earth. Mission control here in Houston has backup power and support capabilities, but we also have the ability to use alternate NASA facilities in the event of a Houston evacuation.


What is (in your opinion) the most challenging thing that NASA has accomplished since 2018?


This is Mary, Infinity FLIGHT! It's an extremely busy and exciting time here at NASA! There as been many significant accomplishments over the past couple years. One event that I was specifically involved in was leading the International Space Station spacewalks to upgrade a set of batteries external to the ISS. These batteries store power from the solar arrays and were delivered by the Japanese logistics cargo ship called HTV.
The spacewalks were completed in April 2019. There is another HTV mission (#8) to the ISS coming in September!


What can the average redditor do to try and increase the percentage of the federal budget that is currently allocated towards space exploration?


A great question for the anniversary of the certification of the 19th Ammendment! No ammendment required for you to be able to write to your Congressional representatives to encourage them to support NASA and our missions.

Emily - Peridot Flight


What has been your most stressful experience working as a flight director? p.s. you are all so inspiring, thank you for your hard work


This is Mary, Infinity Flight. In October 2018, I was supporting console during the Soyuz MS-10 launch anomaly and subsequent abort from here in Mission Control Houston. The Soyuz spacecraft was carrying astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. This resulted in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft. The teams across the world utilized training and preparation in order to react and it was an amazing and successful display of teamwork!


Hello! I’m currently studying for my Undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering. I also plan on completing a graduate degree in astronautical engineering. I am really nervous and curious about what lies beyond the educational part of my journey. ‘Interstellar’ inspired me to take up this course and I’m heavily invested in it. Could you tell me what obstacles you faced after you graduated, what you are currently working on, and your plans for the future?


Remain curious. Curiosity can drive exploration, both personally and professionally. I'm currently working on sitting as many shifts as possible in Mission Control for the International Space Station! ~ Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


do you use clock in space ship different from earth ? how do you use regional settings ? :)


We use GMT - Greenwich Mean Time, which is the time at the Royal Observatory in London to stay in sync between the crew on the ISS for example and all their supporting ground centers.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


Do you girls party with the aliens at Area 51 very often?




Im a 47 year old man, and when I was growing up, my room was decorated with images of rockets, planets, and NASA Mission patches from Apollo, SkyLab, and eventually the Space Shuttle.

What inspired you all to enter this profession? What obstacles were worse than you expected? Were there any obstacles that ended being easier than you expected?


I also grew up in a room decorated with NASA mission patches, pictures of astronauts and glow in the dark stars!

Space exploration has always been something that interested me. Therefore, I followed my dream and ended up studying Aerospace Engineering. As in any job, there are obstacles - but working hard will get you far!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


Correct me if I am wrong here, but Artemis is supposed to be like a middle step to eventual other celestial locations. Outside of Mars, have any gotten NASA's interest?


Going forward to the Moon and onwards to Mars are in the short term goals! The Gateway project will help leap frog us onwards.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


On an average day at Mission Control, how much space ice cream do you eat?

More serious question, I understand that the SOP is to lock the doors to MCC when there has been a serious accident, is that still necessary in the digital age when data/comms are backed up electronically in real time?


Space Ice Cream is definitely NOT a daily treat!

More seriously - good question about the doors. Whenever there's been an issue or an event that will need to be reviewed, we do limit access to MCC, and we also make sure to secure all the relevant data needed to support that review.

Courtenay - Tranquility Flight


Hi, first off I would like to thank your for taking time out of your no doubt busy day to discuss your job and knowledge with us redditors.

As for questions: -What was the most interesting thing you encountered at your time at NASA? -How did you get to where you are? (Collage classes, career paths, etc.) -Have you or others sharing your job position ever been in serious danger?

Thanks again!


You are welcome!

One of the most interesting things I have done at NASA was flip the International Space Station around 180 degrees while using gravity and limited thrusters to help guide the rotation! It was very fuel efficient. I personally studied Aerospace Engineering!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


Hi! People like you are my heroes.

Where do you personally see the human presence in the solar system by 2100?


Great question! While the specific mission may be different... different planet, different science experiments, different people, the urge to explore will always remain. To those around in 2100, Godspeed! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


Nebulae that you find the most inspiring/beautiful? Mine would definitely be NGC-7653, 'The Bubble Nebula'. How about you?


The Helix Nebula!

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


When the commercial crew starts flying, will they report to Houston or to The companies?


The companies are responsible for the flights to and from ISS, so the crews will talk to them during those operations. Once they arrive, they'll work with Houston and our partner centers for ISS ops. Courtenay, Tranquility Flight


How do you keep your interest up during missions that may take months or years to complete?


The International Space Station mission has been 20-plus years, but our mission changes so much over time, and the ship herself has changed so much over time that we're constantly challenged and interested.

Emily - Peridot Flight


I'm ashamed to admit as an aeroeng PhD student, I have no idea how the ISS handles space debris. Does the vessel just tank smaller hits, or is there a way to avoid collision? What happens when there are larger objects that the station would simply not recover from?

Also, thank you for taking time to answer these questions! I know you're all pretty busy, so it's awesome to hear from you all!


How ISS handles debris: when we know it's coming, we change our altitude to get ourselves out of the way. We also train our teams and our crews on what the risks are and how to handle it in different situations.

Thanks for sending questions our way, happy to join you!! Courtenay, Tranquility Flight




The best thing about it is that I don't have to think about it because all of my co-workers treat me as a peer. ~ Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


Can you describe your different career paths that led you all to becoming Flight Directors? Thank you!


My career path was fairly simple - I had the opportunity to come to the Johnson Space Center right out of college to work as a Flight Controller on the International Space Station Mission Control Team, after about 8 years (on my second try) I was accepted into the Flight Director Office. I'll get Courtenay to answer too, since her path was more interesting...

Emily - Peridot Flight


What are some of the inflection points you encountered early on in your career that lead you to pursue/obtain your current position?

As a flight director, how do you compartmentalize/organize all of the knowledge required for all the different systems you manage?


Learning the systems of a spacecraft can feel like a daunting process. I remember early on in my career when a mentor said to me "if it's in a wire, it's either power or data and if it goes through a switch, it's either opened or closed". Breaking the technical content down in to easier to understand components can be the key for putting all of the systems in to place in a mental model. That's how it worked for me! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


I have two questions:

1) What research projects are happening on the ISS currently that you believe will have a critical impact for people?

2) How do you get more women involved in STEM fields? I'm a guy but my PhD advisor (female) was a statistical physicist who pushed hard for women to be more involved in science, so I'm interested to hear from NASA directors how you guys get involved with NASA and what can be done to help encourage women to be more involved.

  1. One ISS project I think is very exciting is work to develop an implant to address retinal degenerative diseases. If successful, this research could restore eyesight to folks suffering from things like macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa. (see this article for more on this research)
  2. For me, involvement in STEM started very young. I grew up in schools that encouraged all of us equally so by 3rd and 4th grade I had the advantage of specialized science classes and after-school programs to explore problem solving and scientific principles. For me, the earlier we can get any child interested in STEM-related topics the better!

Emily - Peridot Flight


How does NASA plan rocket launches?


Its an interesting puzzle with pieces in orbital mechanics, range availability and international partnerships! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


what would you say the future is for nasa? what are your future goals, and what do you proudly look back on that inspires you to strive in the future? keep up the great work!


NASA's Artemis mission is the first step to begin the next era of exploration - to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon with the goal of sending humans to Mars. And I'm excited to be a part of it all!

-Mary, Infinity Flight


Is it true that you have to do a correctional burn every so often to keep the station in orbit? What causes the deviation that warrants this correction? I thought that once an object is in a stable orbit it stays that way forever.

Keep up the great work! -James.


The International Space Station regularly completes reboost manuevers to maintain its orbital altitude around 400 km, countering the gradual decline in speed due to drag in the outermost layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


What is your favorite rocket to see launch and why was it the shuttle?


All of them! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Geochemistry. My dream job would be to work in Mission Controls with geology/geochemist/instrumentation aspects. How would one go about obtain that goal? What qualifications are need to work in Mission Controls?


Geochemistry - how fascinating! Flight Controllers are all products of a STEM related field. Lots are engineers, but not all. Look at for openings to join us in MCC! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


Do you know the game Kerbal space program?If so,

  • Have you ever played it?
  • Do you think it is a good platform to learn about the basics of astronautics?


I do know what Kerbal is. I've never played it myself, but my friends say it is a good way to learn the basics (very basic) of astronautics and how orbits work.

Emily - Peridot Flight


I am curently twenty years old.

I don't think I'll see the first Man on Mars in my lifetime but I am pretty sure that me and my generation will be the first to witness rock solid proof of an extra-terrestrial life. (bacterias on Mars or space shrimp on Europa for example)

Do you think that I'm correct or to optimistic/pessimistic?


Only time will tell! We're working really hard to solve all the known issues to get us there! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


What kind of score on Space Invaders do I need to land an interview at mission control?


Every once in a while, put down the game controller and pick up the textbooks. :D

Emily - Peridot Flight


Was Gene Kranz as much of a steely-eyed missile man as history portrays him as?


White Flight is one of my own personal heroes! - Mary, Infinity Flight


Hello. Here are a few questions I had:

What are some proposed landing sites for future Artemis missions?

What are the chances of an all women crew on a future Artemis mission?


The first stop on the lunar surface will likely be the South Pole region. Believed to contain water ice and potentially rich in other resources, the region is good target for future human landings, and one the agency has already studied heavily with robots.

The crew compliment for Artemis is still being discussed.

Pooja Jesrani, Unity Flight


In your opinion, what are the best subcategories of aero space or the related subjects? As I am a student looking for my further studies. Thank you very much!


As you can imagine, we're a little biased for the space side, but aero is pretty awesome too. Keep being curious and you'll wind up finding the path that takes you to the stars!

Courtenay - Tranquility Flight


When can we put a woman the moon?


The goal is 2024! ~Rebecca Wingfield, Cerulean Flight


I want to get in touch with someone, preferably an astronaut, to ask about food on the ISS, for an article. Who can I contact? I sent an email to NASA but never heard back.


Not sure what email you tried, but maybe try [](, and we'll put the word out that folks were asking...

Emily - Peridot Flight


How do you think the role of flight director for human missions will change if and when said missions go to destinations where speed-of-light communication delays increase (e.g., Mars)?


The fundamentals won't change - leading the team to a workable solution, making sure the risks are understood, confirming everyone is trained and prepared for the mission. Comm delays will change how we interact with the crew in real time, and we're still working out what that will mean.

Thanks! Courtenay, Tranquility Flight


Thanks for hosting! Has there been any serious project exploration by NASA on a manned mission to Venus? It seems the Moon and Mars get all the love, both in the media and by government space agencies.


Nope - Venus has a seriously harsh environment.

Courtenay, Tranquility Flight


Pooja Jersrani, are you Indian?


Yes, she is.

Emily - Peridot Flight

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