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Jessica Calhoun - Robotics Flight Controller
November 9, 2009

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Name: Jessica Calhoun
Job Title: Robotics Flight Controller
Education: Bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech ('08) and master's degree in systems engineering from University of Houston-Clearlake ('11)
NASA Center: Johnson Space Center
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Hobby: Basketball, bike-riding, traveling and reading
 

Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

What attracted you to a career in robotics?

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

What prepared you for your job?

Are you involved in any student robotics projects as a mentor or advisor? If so, please tell us about it.

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?


Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

At Johnson Space Center, I am a Payload Deployment and Retrieval System (PDRS) flight controller and mission designer for STS-130 and STS-133. As a mission designer, I am responsible for planning and coordinating the robotics activities for my respective flights, as well as writing the procedures that will be used by the crew to complete robotic maneuvers in space. As a flight controller - call sign: remote manipulator system support - I support the space shuttle and International Space Station real-time operations by monitoring the robotic arm and payload motion and its proximities to the orbiter, ISS, and space station robotic arm, called the space station remote manipulator system.

On STS-130, the shuttle remote manipulator system, or shuttle robotic arm, will support the unberthing (detaching) and installation of the Node 3 (Tranquility) and Cupola modules. It will also work with the station arm to support a handoff of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System from the station arm to the shuttle arm. On STS-133, the shuttle arm will support the Permanent Logistics Module and Express Logistics Carrier. Currently, the station arm will unberth the Permanent Logistics Module and install it to the space station. After which, the shuttle arm will unberth the Express Logistics Carrier and hand it off to the station arm, which will then install it to the station. On both missions, the shuttle arm will grapple the Orbiter Boom Sensor System and use several sensors to take pictures of the orbiter's tiles to ensure no damage was done to the orbiter during liftoff.

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What attracted you to a career in robotics?

Robotics is very cool! It is interesting to me that we can now develop robotics with different functions to perform all sorts of tasks. Some robotics are even so complex that they perform tasks humans cannot. From the remote control car to a walking, talking robot - robotics is all around doing incredible things!

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What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

Working with astronauts and seeing the robotic arm maneuver in space is definitely the highlight of my career. Mission design for a space shuttle mission starts a year in advance and requires extensive astronaut crew training. Here at JSC, there are several 2-D and 3-D dynamics trainers that allow us to stimulate the shuttle arm's and station arm's robotic motion in space, but seeing the arms maneuver in space, real-time, makes all the hard work worthwhile!

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What prepared you for your job?

As a child, I attended Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., (and another space-themed camp program) in Baton Rouge, La., at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, which helped to instill an interest in spaceflight and exploration. In college, I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Tech in aerospace engineering (and graduated) in 2008. I am now in graduate school at the University of Houston, pursuing a master's degree in systems engineering. I also gained valuable work experience working at ExxonMobil, Syngenta, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center before starting my career here at NASA.

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Are you involved in any student robotics projects as a mentor or advisor? If so, please tell us about it.

During my summers in college, I worked as a Space Camp counselor where I taught kids how to use and program Lego Mindstorms. Kids would have to design different mechanisms using Legos to attach to their Mindstorm and then program it to perform a set of tasks on a rebuilt obstacle course.

Now I am a mentor for a robotic space camp here in Houston, where middle school kids will be doing essentially the same thing using Lego Mindstorm. I also volunteer with robotic projects at local high schools.

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What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?

Get involved! Find a local robotic team or attend a space camp one summer. There are so many different programs to do and toys you can buy that will teach you how to apply robotics.

Keep informed of new technologies and learn more about them! Start thinking of different ways robotics can be used in our world and start designing. Build a prototype and see where it takes you!



 
 
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Jessica Calhoun - Robotics Flight Controller
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Page Last Updated: February 27th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator