Meet: Karina Shook
NASA Johnson Space Center
Who I Am
My official title is "aerospace technologist," but that's sort of a generic
title and it doesn't really describe what I do. The group I work in is
responsible for training the astronauts for their spacewalks. At NASA,
we call a spacewalk an EVA - that stands for Extravehicular Activity.
We teach the astronauts how to use the spacesuits and also how to do the
job they're going to be doing while they're out EVA. We work with astronauts,
payload customers and tool developers to develop the procedures the astronauts
follow during the EVA. We also work in Mission Control during the EVAs
to monitor both the spacesuits and the tasks the astronauts are doing.
This is a photo of me in the spacesuit. I was taking part in some testing
of a new modification to the suit. It was a good opportunity for me to
find out how difficult it is to work inside a pressurized spacesuit.
What I Do
In Mission Control, we monitor the astronauts while they check out their
spacesuits before an EVA, keep a close eye on the performance of the spacesuits
during the EVA, and assist in solving any problems that happen with either
the suit or the tools that the astronauts are using. An example of that
kind of problem solving was the extra EVA we added to the Hubble flight
to repair some insulation on the telescope that had been damaged by exposure
to the sun and was peeling away. The insulation protects sensitive electronics
so we needed to make sure it will stay in place until the next Hubble
servicing mission which will happen in about 3 years.
It was a little like the scene in Apollo 13 when the engineers on the
ground had to figure out a way for the astronauts to make a new air filter
for the spacecraft using only things that were onboard the spacecraft.
Using some insulation repair materials, wire, cable ties and metal clips,
all of which were onboard the Shuttle, the astronauts made some "band-aids"
that will hold the insulation in place until the next flight.
We Use Many Different Facilities for Astronaut Training
We use many different facilities for astronaut training. We have a simulator
for the spacesuit's Display and Control Module - the part on the front
with the switches that control oxygen, power, water, ventilation, communications
and temperature. We have several mockups (full-size models) of the space
shuttle where astronauts learn how to put together and maintain their
spacesuit and how to test it out before they do an EVA. We also teach
the astronauts how to use all the many EVA tools that we fly on the shuttle.
[Learn more about astronaut training facilities by reading Karina Shook's
My Career Journey
I got this job by having a bachelor's degree in engineering (my particular
degree is in engineering mechanics and astronautics, but other people
in my office have degrees in things like mechanical engineering, aerospace
engineering or industrial engineering.) I was also a co-op student at
NASA. A co-op student is a college student who takes a semester off of
school and works in a real engineering job for that semester. Co-op students
get paid pretty well, and they get real engineering experience that is
very important for getting a job when they graduate. I worked in several
different places within NASA as a co-op student - both at NASA Lewis Research
Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and here at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
I have two goldfish for pets. One is small and has a black stripe along
his back and black on the tips of his fins. The other one is a dark orange
fantail. I've never been good at thinking of names for fish, so they don't
have names. Any ideas??
I Grew up in the Country with Lots of Pets
I grew up in Middleton, Wisconsin, which is about 8 miles from Madison,
the capital of the state. Madison is built between four lakes and is a
very pretty city. It's not a very big city though - only about 200,000
people live there. About 12,000 people live in Middleton. I grew up in
the country with lots of pets (pony, goats, dog, cats...). Our yard also
had fruit trees and a big garden, so I appreciate clean air and water,
animals, flowers, and the quiet of the countryside. My parents still live
in Middleton along with my youngest brother, who is 13. I have another
brother who is in college in Milwaukee.
I went to college at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. I live in
Houston, Texas, now, and I miss the snow! I love to do anything that involves
being outdoors, like bicycling, running, horseback riding, hiking, camping,
etc. I like lots of different kinds of music, but really enjoy classical.
I play violin in a local orchestra, and also play piano and acoustic guitar.
I would like to learn to hang glide someday - I did it once and it was
an amazing feeling to soar almost like a bird!
I Read All the Black Stallion Books
When I was in elementary school, I read all the Black Stallion books,
and I love horses so I wanted to be a jockey in horse races. I also enjoyed
the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, and I thought it might be cool to
be a detective someday. Then in 8th grade, the movie "The Right Stuff"
came out (about America's first 7 astronauts), and I decided I wanted
to be an astronaut. That's how I ended up working for NASA.
Living and Traveling in Europe
I have been fortunate to have many wonderful and interesting experiences
that shaped my life. When I was in 4th grade, my family moved to The Netherlands
(Holland) for a year because my dad (a dairy science professor) was working
there. My brother and I didn't know a word of Dutch when we got there,
but we went to a Dutch school there, so we learned to speak it. That year
was a wonderful experience - we learned the language and learned about
their culture, and toured all over the country as well as other parts
of Europe. We still celebrate some of their holidays, like Sinterklaas
Avond, which is the evening that St. Nicholas comes around to all the
houses and puts treats in the wooden shoes of good little kids.
This photo was taken on my cross-country bike trip as we crossed the Rocky
Mountains in June of 1996. After high school, I went to England and Scotland
on a tour with my Youth Orchestra. We even played a concert in Carnegie
Hall! (in Dunfermline, Scotland, that is... :-). The summer after I graduated
from college, I rode my bicycle across the United States - from San Francisco,
California to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That was an experience I will
never forget, and the 70 other riders on the trip turned out to be some
really amazing and interesting people from all over the country.
Likes/Dislikes About Career
There are many things that I love about my job. The biggest one is that
we have a direct role in all the spacewalks that astronauts do. We help
to develop specialized tools and procedures to get the job done, we train
the astronauts to do the job, and then we get to work in Mission Control
to make sure that everything goes as planned. There's a lot of work to
be done, and a lot of variety. Every EVA is different - and poses new
and different challenges. I also like working with people, which we do
a lot of. We need to coordinate between the people who own the payload
(such as Hubble), the people who design and build the tools, the astronauts,
and other flight controllers. I also love the people I work with - they
are all hard-working, enthusiastic, motivated people.
The thing I like least is that we have to do a lot of paperwork to document
everything we do so that if something goes wrong we can hopefully figure
out what happened and why, and also to keep track of why we do things
a certain way so that years later if someone wants to do something similar
they won't have to "re-invent the wheel." The paperwork is important,
but it's not as fun as the other things we do. There are so many things
that I love about my job, though, that I don't mind doing tedious paperwork
My Future Plans and Goals
Soon, I will be involved with planning EVAs to assemble the International
Space Station, and someday, I would like to see humans land on Mars. It
would be even better if I could participate in getting them there!
Learn more from my NeurOn Chats
March 19, l998