Two AAE alums selected as NASA flight directors
NASA selected two AAE graduates to join an "elite corps" of flight directors who will lead mission control for a variety of new operations at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Allison Bolinger (BSAAE '04) and Jose Marcos Flores (MSAAE '15) were among six people chosen for the prestigious group. Once their class is trained, they'll be among only 97 flight directors since the first in 1958. Bolinger has been at NASA since 2004, and Flores started full-time in 2010.
They'll need to complete extensive training -- from flight control and vehicle systems to operational leadership and risk management -- before they can sit behind the flight director console in mission control supporting NASA's astronauts.
Once they do, they’ll join the 26 active flight directors guiding mission control. Bolinger and Flores will oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, including integrating American-made commercial crew spacecraft into the fleet of vehicles servicing the orbiting laboratory, as well as Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon.
Bolinger previously served as deputy chief of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. She also acted as lead spacewalk flight controller for space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission and has supported spacewalks in a variety of other functions.
In a Twitter chat after the announcement, Bolinger tweeted she was most excited about getting back into mission control.
“I loved that part of my spacewalking EVA career,” Bolinger tweeted. “I can’t wait to dust off my headset!”
Flores, who interned at multiple NASA centers while an undergrad, had been a flight controller who managed the station’s power and external thermal control. He initially came to NASA as a systems engineer and helped to develop a new space station simulator.
“Most of us have accumulated experience working in Flight Control as Systems Specialists where we develop the foundations of flight control,” Flores said on Twitter in response to a tweet asking about the journey toward becoming a flight director. “Understanding the responsibilities that come with the FD job is a big step in qualifying.”
In their new roles as flight directors, Bolinger and Flores will lead teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world. They’ll be charged with making real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA astronauts safe in space.
“The job of flight director is not an easy one, and we make these selections very carefully,” acting chief of the Flight Director Office at Johnson Holly Ridings said in a press release. “We had a great group of applicants, so we were able to choose six individuals who have worked in many areas of human spaceflight.
"They’ll bring a lot of good experience to the role that will serve NASA well as we undertake new and exciting missions.”