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Meet: Jon Blitch
Please note:This bio dates back to 1998
Updated bio is available

Lead Shuttle Systems Inspector

photo of jon blitch on the job

Who I am

My name is Jon Blitch and I live on the Space Coast in Titusville, Florida. Every time there is a Shuttle launch scheduled, the town of Titusville becomes a haven for tourists from all over the country. The shores of the Indian River become dotted with tents, campers and motor homes and the excitement can be felt all over the downtown area. I have lived here all of my life and have had the good fortune to view many launches right from my own back yard!

What I do

I am a Lead Shuttle Systems Inspector. I work for United Space Alliance, a contractor at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. I have worked at the Space Center for almost 19 years. I started out in 1979 as a Shuttle Systems Mechanic and was responsible for the installation and repair of all facets of external insulation on the Space Shuttles. Now, my job is to inspect the Thermal Protection System (TPS). This requires not only performing intense inspections to detect damages that result from reentry and landing but also those that may have been incurred during everyday processing. It is important to make sure that the Reusable Surface Insulation, or RSI, (Tiles, Blankets, FRSI, Fillerbar, Thermal Barriers, and Gapfillers) is free of damages, installed correctly, and in the proper locations. RSI is installed on each Orbiter (Space Shuttle) as a means of protection from the incredible heat encountered upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere. It keeps the underlying skin of the Orbiters cool. Without it, the Shuttle would burn up during the reentry phase of the mission. We have a saying out here that goes, "TPS, can't get home without it." It's really true and that is why I inspect each element veeerrry closely.

What I like most about my job

I love the fact that my job is diverse. It allows me to interface with many different people on a daily basis. I not only inspect the work of many technicians but also get to talk with the engineers who write the procedures to which the techs are working. In addition to my inspections, I, along with a team of people from other related systems, am required to walk down the Launch Pad surface area and inside the Flame Trench to ensure the absence of any debris which might harm the TPS during liftoff. Since the Pads are situated on the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and near the Atlantic Ocean, many different and interesting kinds of debris and wildlife can be found.

I am also a member of the Offsite Recovery Crew, which means whenever the Shuttle lands somewhere other than KSC, I have the opportunity to travel to wherever it may be. So far, I have been to the Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edward's Air Force Base in California (many times) and White Sands, New Mexico. I think it is also incredible that I get to be so close to, sometimes standing on, the Space Shuttle. Even after almost 19 years of working on it, I still am in awe of it and what it can do. Occasionally, I get to meet the astronauts as they tour the Orbiter Processing Facilities. I have talked one on one with them about the mission and about what it is like up there in space! It is also cool when dignitaries and celebrities come through on tours. To name a few, we have seen Prince Charles, Jacques Cousteau, Larry Bird, Leonard Nemoy (Spock), and, just recently, I actually shook hands with Jim Carrey!


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