Columbus Flight Directors
It's snowing in Munich today, but the preparation work for Tim's mission never stops! Less than two months to go, the excitement goes up and up!
-Libby: Cranfield University (2002 – 2003) and Imperial College, London (1999 – 2002); -Sergio: Polytechnic of Turin (Italy)/University of Stuttgart (Germany); Simon: International Space University/University of Kent
-Libby: MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering, BSc in Physics; -Sergio: II Level Masters in Space System Engineering, MsC in Aerospace Engineering; -Simon: Masters of Space Studies/BSc in Physics & Space Science
-Libby: Airbus DS (Stevenage), Col-CC (Munich), UK Space Agency (Swindon); -Sergio: Thales Alenia Space Turin (Italy), COLCC Munich (Germany); -Simon: Airbus Stevenage (UK), TAS-I Turin (Italy), ESTEC Noordwijk (Holland), COLCC Munich (Germany)
-Libby: Astronaut Flight Education Programme Manager; -Sergio and Simon: Columbus Flight Director
-Libby: UK Space Agency; -Sergio and Simon: Airbus Defence and Space
We lead Mission Control in Munich, to look after the Columbus Module and the ISS crew!
If you’ve ever seen Apollo 13, and remember all the people on the ground, talking into headsets, staring at telemetry, and fixing problems… Well, that’s our job! The Col Flight team has overall responsibility for the operations of Columbus Module, the European Space Laboratory joined to the International Space Station and we coordinate all the astronauts activities in it. Tim will perform a lot of scientific experiments inside Columbus, we will be the team supporting him every day, coordinating all his activities so that they are successful and making sure that he is always safe.
Because we will be pretty busy preparing and executing Tim’s Mission, we decided to split our support between 3 of us:
– Libby Jackson
– Sergio Palumberi
– Simon Challis
Libby is a former Columbus Flight Director. She now works for the UK Space Agency as Tim Peake’s Flight Education Programme Manager
Sergio is the lead Columbus Flight Director for the first half of Tim’s stay in orbit.
Simon was the lead Columbus Flight Director for the first half of Samantha Cristoforettis Mission. He will be on-console during Tim’s Mission.
My Typical Day
Shift work: Mornings, Afternoons, Nights, Weekends, talking to astronauts on the ISS from time to time… Arriving at work without knowing when you will leave. Meetings, meetings and meetings with different teams spread all over Europe and the US.
One of the exciting things about this job is that you thouroughly plan what you will do today and then you arrive at work, stay there sometimes even 12 hours and then you leave having done nothing about what you had planned to do, because unexpected things happen and you need to react immediately and fix them.
Here is a clip from the Apollo 13 movie that we think shows quite well how a day at work can turn out to be.
What I'd do with the prize money
We would use the money to help the winning class visit a real space operations centre in the UK.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
-Libby: Determined, Friendly, Busy; -Sergio: Reactive, Precise, Unconventional; -Simon: Curious, Motivated, Thorough
What was your favourite subject at school?
-Libby: Physics. I loved how it explains the world around us and how it works; -Sergio: Electrotechnology. Seeing how a sinusoid can make a train move was mindblowing!; -Simon: I loved history. If I wasn’t so into Space I’d want to be an archeologist!
What did you want to be after you left school?
-Libby: A Flight Director! I didn’t think it was possible when I left school, but I never lost sight of the goal; -Sergio: an engineer on whatever field, I always liked to fix things. Dream fulfilled, being a Flight Director is like being the MacGyver of the ISS!; -Simon: An Astronaut; Being a Flight Director is the next best thing ;-)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
-Libby: Not usually, I didn’t (and still don’t) like getting into trouble; -Sergio: a number of times, for passing the tests answers under the desk to my classmates; -Simon: My memory escapes me ;-) its been a while ago!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
-Libby: Skiing!; -Sergio: making public conferences about the ISS and seeing the passion for science triggered in people’s mind; -Simon: Diving in Bonaire
This is a view of the control room, with Simon sitting at the central desk…
…and this is what we normally see in the screens of our computer
This is Sergio with Tim Peake in the Columbus Control Centre
Simon at work while coordinating some Astronaut activity
Libby, back when she was a Flight Director, keeping a watchful eye on activities.
Sergio in Houston studying what a space suit looks like
And this is Sergio under the immense engines of the Saturn V, the rocket that sent the astronauts to the Moon!