Sarah Daugherty - Gives the Final "Go"
As the Wallops Flight Facility Test Director, Sarah Daugherty makes the final decision for “launch/flight.”
Organization She Works For:
Code 840, WFF Range and Mission Management Office
What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?
I’m the Launch Decision Authority for any mission that launches from Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), from orbital and suborbital rockets to unmanned aerial systems. I make the final decision for “launch/flight.”
What is a typical day on the job like for you?
A day in the life of a Test Director is anything but typical. With a large amount of operational activities performed in parallel by dozens of missions or projects, there is a constant flow of real-time requests and approvals that I must balance. From mitigating airspace issues and resolving scheduling conflicts to having insight into all daily operations and supporting project managers, there are rarely two days that are similar. However, there are typical deliverables for every launch that I must provide to the mission or project such as airspace clearances, public notices to pilots and boaters, and trajectory conjunction analysis results.
Do you use any cool tools, or instruments or specialized pieces of equipment to do your job?
The coolest tool I use is a SMART board interactive whiteboard. We use the SMART board to visualize the interactions between the multiple mission and project
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Sarah Daugherty at Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: Patrick Black
hazard areas and other operational areas, aid in planning an operation such as surveillance of specific areas, and collaboratively brainstorm ideas.
How important is teamwork or collaboration with others to your being able to do your job?
Teamwork is immensely important. As a part of each mission’s operational team, I have specific responsibilities that require input from others as well as other responsibilities that require me to provide input. There are also many occasions where I work as part of a team to review test or operation readiness and ensure safety and engineering excellence.
Who is the most interesting, inspiring, or amazing person you have met or worked with at Goddard?
The most interesting, inspiring, and amazing person I’ve met and worked with here is Pam Pittman, Branch Head of the Wallops Systems Software Engineering Branch. Pam is a great leader and supervisor; she makes work fun, motivates people to go above and beyond, and continually guides her employees and organization towards success. She welcomes all people and ideas because she recognizes that diversity leads to the best solution or innovation. She encourages employees to take advantage of opportunities to improve themselves. Pam always maintains a clear vision towards the future and utilizes her great sense of humor. Pam is amazing here, everywhere she goes and in everything she does – as a proud mother of three, a devoted wife, a cancer survivor, and a highly successful professional.
What makes Goddard a great place to work?
The missions, the people, and the opportunities! The missions are exciting, cutting-edge, and abundant. The people here excel at what they do; they’re intelligent, hard-working, and great leaders. The opportunities for your career here are seemingly endless. If you want to try or do something different, the doors are open for just about anything.
What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their career at Goddard?
First, find someone who is well-respected by those who interact with them. Then get to know them; ask questions to learn what makes them successful both technically and in interacting with people. Second, step outside of your comfort zone every now and then. Whether it’s taking on more responsibility, giving a presentation to upper management, or walking into someone’s office instead of calling on the phone, the experience and self-improvement gained far outweigh the fear.
If you could meet and talk to anybody, living or dead, who would it be and what’s the first thing you’d ask them?
I would want to meet Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. I would ask him, “How did you consistently maintain composure under pressure, as the go-to man for a last second shot or as a team leader to whom everyone looked up?”
Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie, or TV show?
My favorite TV show is “The Big Bang Theory.” I also enjoy “The Office” and many of the shows on the Discovery and National Geographic channels.
Is there some place in the world that you want to visit, or someplace you have been and want to go back?
On the very top of my travel to-do list is a wildlife safari in Africa.
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NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Va.