Center Snapshot - David Bowles
David Bowles. Image above: Much of Dave Bowles' time is demanded by his job in leading Langley's Exploration and Space Operations Directorate, but in the fall, he finds a few days for Virginia Tech football. NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

The clock on the credenza behind his desk is a reminder of the time, but more important of the calendar. Its face reads "Virginia Tech 2004 ACC Champions," and every time Dave Bowles looks back, he gets excited about what's ahead.

Most of the year, if he's not in his office, he's in a meeting or on the road, selling NASA Langley's prowess as head of its Exploration and Space Operations Directorate.

But on August 29, he was on the way to Charlotte, getting ready to watch the Hokies lose, alas, to East Carolina 27-22. On September 5, the trip was better: Tech 24, Furman 7. Beating Georgia Tech 20-17 made things even better for future trips.

On October 3 and November 5, 21 and 28 he will be en route to Blacksburg for dates with Virginia Tech and whoever it beats the next day.

"I pretty much set my year around Tech football," said Bowles. "I get that time in early."

He's gone on Friday and sets up a tailgate party Saturday near the school's drill field.

"It's nice," he said. "Not extravagant as some, with their grills and all of that. But it's enough for us."

He has four season tickets and "us," in this case, is generally wife Michele and two of three children. Sometimes it's son Nathan, though probably not this year because he's in Atlanta, pursuing his musical muse. Sometimes it's Aaron, also a musician. More often it's daughter Brittany, but that might be harder this year because she's a freshman at Old Dominion.

Brittany is the budding engineer.

"And if we don't have anybody, there's no problem in selling the tickets," Bowles said.

They're near the goal line, and he keeps four of them because they're so hard to get.

It's easy enough to get rid of a couple in Building 1298, where many meetings on space involve fellow Tech alumni.

Bowles and Michele like to travel, but opportunities are limited for the past few years because of work demands, so Tech football games offer them an outlet.

"We like Las Vegas," he offered, then admitted that they haven't been there in three years.

"Her games are roulette and slots," Bowles said, laughing. "I just like to watch her and other people. Don't gamble much."

Work demands are difficult for those in exploration, who are racing a difficult deadline to put NASA back on the moon by 2020. Time away is scarce throughout the directorate.

"People here are amazing," Bowles said of the work being done at Langley on exploration. "They're really enthusiastic, and they work hard. They really want to see this happen."

Kind of like the people he sees on football weekends, who want to see the Hokies happen, to make sure that the loss to East Carolina is an anomaly and not a sign of tough weekends to come. That the wins over Furman and Furman mean all is the right for the rest of the Hokies' – and Bowles' – season.