Payload Operations Integration Center team member Stephanie Dudley talks to students about her day-to-day job duties as a payload operations director. Contact Katie Presson at 544-7583 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Susan Currie at 544-3629 or email@example.com if you'd like someone from the POIC to speak to your child's class about the cool science research going on aboard the station and how it benefits our lives here on Earth. (NASA/Emmett Given)
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Participating in the Payload Operations Integration Center's 12th anniversary educational event are, from left, Kevin Barnes, payload rack officer; Rick Rodriguez, Stephanie Dudley and Katie Presson, all payload operations directors; Penny Pettigrew, payload communications manager; Carol Jacobs, payload operations director; and Ola Myszka, operations controller. The team members spoke to students via a webcast from the POIC about its unique capabilities that allow science experts and researchers around the world to perform cutting-edge science in a space environment. Dedicated professionals at the center manage all NASA science activities on the International Space Station. Before and during a mission, the POIC team trains astronauts and ground personnel about payloads, and coordinates the plans for payload activities with scientists and station control centers around the world. (NASA/Emmett Given)
View large image NASA's Payload Operations Integration Center (POIC) is celebrating 12 years of science support for the International Space Station, and students from several schools joined in on the festivities.
The POIC at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., marked its anniversary on March 8 with the future generation - students from Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, California and even Australia. They virtually "stepped inside" the science command post for the International Space Station - located at the Marshall Center - right from their own classrooms through an hour-long webcast via NASA's Digital Learning Network.
With its theme "Celebrating 12 Years of Science from the ISS," the webcast was loaded with reviews of science research such as the "Spiders in Space" experiment where the crew observes arachnid habits in a microgravity environment, helping scientists more clearly understand how organisms are affected in orbit.
NASA astronaut TJ Creamer, Marshall's first astronaut to become a payload operations director, talked to the students about his career that eventually led him to the center, where he leads a team of flight controllers that coordinate all research activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.
"With five-and-a-half months or so on station, you are able to come away with a good impression of what the station environment looks like and how the operations work from day to day," said Creamer, who was an Expedition 22/23 crew member from December 2009 to June 2010. "And as a result of that impression - that mental awareness - now we're in the era of utilization when we are completing even more research. So we're here managing payloads and science experiments 24/7, 365 days of the year, and I thought it was a great marriage. After the handful of months on station, you can come away with a very healthy operational awareness. You come away with a crew sensitivity. Now, the marriage I spoke of is trying to integrate all of those components for the payload developers and investigators to make science and utilization successful."
POIC team members also talked with the students about their job responsibilities -working with researchers from around the world and crews aboard the space station to perform the more than 1,500 investigations since 2001.
Students from select schools, including New Hope Elementary School, New Hope, Ala.; Ninth Grade Academy, Fayetteville, Tenn.; Causey Middle School, Mobile, Ala.; and West Middle School, Sioux City, Iowa; asked questions and conversed with the POIC team members to gain an understanding of what goes on behind the control center's doors.
"Our main goal in hosting this webcast event was to capture students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM," said Sam Digesu, manager of the Payload Operations Directors Office at Marshall. "We rely on our future generation to carry out NASA's missions, and we were very happy to share with them all the fascinating work that goes on in our control center and on station. And there's a lot!
"Special thanks to the POIC team who planned this successful opportunity," he added. "They are passionate about their duties and it was obvious. I'm sure that many parents listened to their excited children talk about the cool things going on 200-plus miles above us."
The educational event was just one example of outreach by the POIC team. They take any opportunity to visit schools to spread the word about the work done right here in Huntsville.
"Anytime we have the opportunity to go out to schools, we really enjoy it," said Katie Presson, a payload operations director at Marshall. "Talking to kids about astronauts and how they work in space is just as exciting for us as it is for them. And they always have the best questions!"
If you'd like a POIC team member to speak to your child's class, contact Presson at 544-7583 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Susan Currie, education program specialist, at 544-3629 or email@example.com.
The webcast event was organized and hosted by the POIC and Marshall's Academic Affairs Office in the Office of Human Capital.