I was rummaging through my computer’s hard drive the other day, looking for photos to illustrate a talk I’m working on, and came across some shots from STS-135, the last Space Shuttle Mission. NASA photographers made it a point to set aside time to roam around MCC (Mission Control Center) during missions to gather candid shots of people doing their jobs – a historical record of what oftentimes didn’t turn out to be significant events, but still, they captured the feel of a mission. This shot is apparently from the last shift of the planning team (based on other shots I found with similar photo numbers) and shows Norm Knight, head of the Flight Director Office on the left, and John Shannon, Head of the Space Shuttle Program on the left. I’m in the Flight Director chair, of course, a place both the other guys had occupied.
Norm came on board Mission Operations as a Coop student when I was head of the Mechanical Systems Section. I became a Flight Director in 1993, and Norm went on to a great career as a flight controller, then head of a Section or two before we brought him along in to the Flight Director office. Eventually, he took the corner office, and I was happy to have him there – I preferred to fly missions rather than run the office, that’s for sure!
John Shannon and I were both selected as Flight Directors (along with Bryan Austin) as the Class of 1993. John was a young GNC (Guidance, Navigation, & Control) flight controller and mostly did Ascent/Entry in the FD (Flight Directors) office before bumping up into program management and finishing out the Shuttle Program as its head guy. I was always asking him if he didn’t wish he’d just stayed on console.
I’m guessing that Norm and John wandered in sometime during our last shift just to see what was going on – I am holding the console Handover binder, where we passed notes of interest between shifts, and if I recall, I had just shown John that the handover to me was completely blank – there was nothing going on. It was the last sleep shift before the last Entry, and everything was squared away.
I can see my large Minnesota Gopher mug in the background, along with my red fabric lunchbox – it was red because my mother liked to watch NASA TV to see if I was on console, and her eye-sight was fading – so all she could see was the splash of color to know I was on duty. Shannon Lucid, my Capcom (one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet), is the one in pink behind me, probably figuring out wake-up words for the crew for entry day.
OK, so here’s the inside joke in this shot. Do you suppose Norm, John, and I are talking about how long it will take for FAO (Flight Activities Officer) to figure out that we’re the ones with his Scotch Tape dispenser? And will he dare ask Flight for it back? At least it wasn’t a red stapler…..