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Tom Russell -- Orchestrating Space Missions and History
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Senior Field Engineer Tom Russell is a master coordinator, from orchestrating numerous launch missions from his console in the Network Integration Center to staging living history activities.

Name: Thomas (Tom) D. Russell
Title: Senior Field Engineer
Formal Job Classification: Spaceflight Mission Manager
Organization: Code 450.S

What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

If I’m in the office, I handle mission paperwork, teleconferences, and phone calls for pre-launch and launch activities as well as review and update documents. If I’m in the console in the Network Integration Center (NIC), I support requirements for missions. During mission activities, I am in the console supporting pre-launch, launch, docking, undocking, re-entry, and touch-down activities. Our console is specifically built to support mission requirements for voice and data. We have a team of systems engineers that build and maintain this equipment. We all have to go through training to use this equipment.

Photo of Tom Russell at his workstation› Larger image
Tom Russell in the Network Integratin Center where he works. Photo credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk
I’ve worked for the best team and workforce in the world – the NASA team including civil servants and contractors! You can’t get any better than that! Teamwork is extremely valuable and of the utmost importance. We all have strengths that we bring plus we all rely on each other. You always need several sets of eyes and ears.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?

I’ve been a part of the rocket launch team for the launches of the XM/Sirius radio satellites, NOAA weather satellites, DoD launch missions, Mars rovers, and the Hubble Space Telescope missions. I’ve also been a member of the Human Space Flight team that worked on all the Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station (ISS).

Through the years, I have met some very famous people. When Queen Elizabeth of England visited Goddard a few years ago, I was working in the console. The Queen visited the NIC and stood directly in front of me while she talked to the astronauts in the ISS. Another time, our Human Space Flight team and I were on the console supporting a documentary of John Glenn’s NASA life, which was produced and narrated by Nick Clooney (actor George Clooney’s father). I once spoke with Apollo 13 Astronaut Jim Lovell. I have flown on the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) with several Shuttle astronauts including STS-114 Commander Col. Eileen Collins.

Image of where Tom Russell works› Larger image
Queen Elizabeth visits the Network Integration Center in May 2007. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
What makes Goddard a great place to work?

The people, activities, and missions at Goddard make Goddard a great place to work. Another great thing about working at Goddard is the public affairs and public outreach that’s provided by Goddard’s Office of Communications to children and parents. At Goddard, you feel like you’re part of a family.

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their career at Goddard?

I would start with saying stay in school, get a good education, be able to work with and on a team, don’t be afraid to make mistakes because we all do, so use these mistakes as a building block for the future, rely on your team members, ask questions, and definitely take the advice of others who were previously in their positions, ask for help, and be
passionate about your job. Also, build your own profile at work based on your experiences and advice from your team members. Lastly, be willing to work long hours and possibly hours that are beyond a normal work schedule.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

I coordinate living history activities such as military reenactments some of which were featured in four different movies. I’ve sailed on historic ships including the Nina, one of Christopher Columbus’ ships. I’ve also made historical, educational documentaries about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Bicentennial, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. Some of these educational documentaries are used in schools.

Is there someplace in the world that you want to visit or someplace you have been and want to go back?

I would like to return to Germany to visit my family. I would also like to return to Japan for a vacation. Scotland and Ireland are also tops on my list.

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.