ix Introduction Mission Control The International Space Station (ISS)—two-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2009 Collier Trophy—is a space outpost that is unfamiliar to many people. Behind this amazing feat of engineering is not just science and math but a team of devoted men and women from around the world and many walks of life that have made the ISS a success. These professionals comprise the Flight Control Team (FCT) of Flight Operations. This FCT is the Houston in such famous phrases as “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed,” and “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Although astronauts are the visible front of the space program, the FCT works around the clock to ensure the health of the crew and the smooth operation of the vehicle. Many a controller has worked on Christmas, canceled a holiday, or lain awake at night worrying about failures or wondering what might have been missed before a mission. This passion and attention to detail has allowed the ISS and the programs that preceded it—Space Shuttle, Skylab, and Apollo—to succeed. These are the people who step up when things do not go well. The completed International Space Station with the Space Shuttle Endeavour on one end and the European Automated Transfer Vehicle on the other, as seen from the Russian Soyuz vehicle on May 23, 2011. But, as with the hidden magic of a stage crew on a theatre production, the FCT is rarely seen or heard. Most people’s exposure to the controllers is limited to what they see on NASA television: a serene- looking room full of men and women sitting in front of computer consoles, showing little difference between when the crew is asleep and when a major malfunction has occurred that threatens the crew, vehicle, or success of a mission. One way to tell things are not going as planned is when a collection of flight controllers, and potentially managers, huddle around the console of the flight director—i.e., the person responsible for keeping the whole
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