Meet: Chris Gerty
Space Shuttle Flight Controller
NASA Johnson Space Center
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.
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.
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!
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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