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Meet: Chris Gerty

Photo of Chris Gerty

Space Shuttle Flight Controller
Payloads Group
NASA Johnson Space Center

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Who am I?
My name is Chris Gerty, and I work as a space shuttle flight controller for the Payloads group. This means that I help whoever owns the equipment (that we take into space) get it there and back safely, and make sure it does its job during the mission. Whoever buys time and room on the shuttle for their payload is our customer. In our group we work with this customer to come up with procedures, checklists, rules, and plans for what to do if something goes wrong. This way, when the shuttle is in flight, everyone is ready to perform the mission safely and successfully.

My Background
OK, who am I really? Well, I'm originally a New Yorker, born in Long Island in a small town called East Moriches. I moved around a lot in my childhood, but stayed in the northeast until I started working for NASA in 1995. While in Long Island we lived in Lake Ronkonkoma -- my dad was an insurance underwriter for Metropolitan Life, and my mom took some night classes. I have one sister, Beth, who is four years younger than I am. Then we moved to Rochester, in upstate New York, where it was a little colder and I picked up skiing. Then I moved four hours away to New Paltz and started playing floor and roller hockey in my free time. I graduated from high school there and went to Clarkson University to major in computer engineering.

College Life
Clarkson University is in a small town in the very northern part of New York State called Potsdam, which is very close to Canada. It gets pretty cold there, and naturally there are a lot of ice hockey players. I bought skates and embarrassed myself quite a bit during the four years I played intramurals there - but it was a lot of fun! A great thing about the small size of Clarkson was how I got to know almost my whole class, and being in a small major we really got some special attention from our professors. One of the reasons I originally picked Clarkson was because they were part of a Space Grant Consortium that received grants from NASA. When I started attending, I realized that this program only affected graduate students, but an undergraduate from ANY school could participate in a NASA cooperative education program. So I interviewed over the phone with Johnson Space Center, went down to visit during a low-budget spring break, and started working in Houston in the fall of 1995.

Moving to Houston
It was a big change to come down to Houston from New York. I had lived up north all my life, so the summer heat, the people's accents, and the style of food were all a big surprise to me. But with the exception of the country music, I really like everything about the South. There are a lot of people in Houston, so there is a lot to do even if you don't go country dancing. The weather took some getting used to, but the Houston summer heat is much easier on my Jeep than the winters in Potsdam, New York were. And I know it sounds strange, but the wide-open land makes the sky look bigger! Being interested in astronomy since I was young, I was very impressed when I saw the Texas night sky for the first time. But whether I liked Texas or not, I knew that Houston would be my home for a while, because it's the place where it's really happening in the manned space business!

Settling Down
Since five years ago my life has changed immensely. I was lucky enough to meet my beautiful wife, Maureen, while I was at college. Since she was a chemical engineer, it worked out very well for her to move down to Houston even before we got married. We now own a home together in Clear Lake, where our "kid" cat Xena tears up the place. Keeping a home together is a challenging and rewarding job in itself, especially because Maureen and I both work full-time. Patience is the key to that though, and we are enjoying our lives together immensely.

The co-op program also gave me the chance to meet a lot of great friends in Houston, and we spend a lot of time with them too. Bowling, seeing a movie, socializing at a Mexican restaurant, or camping in Austin, we enjoy just getting away from the challenges of the day and having some fun! For the millennium celebration last New Year's a bunch of us even took an RV on a 10-day trip to the west coast and back, seeing Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Monterey, the Grand Canyon, and White Sands along the way. We have memories from that trip that will last a lifetime!

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