Who I am and What I do
I work in the Public Affairs Office at Johnson Space
Center (JSC). Public Affairs is kind of like public relations. We work
to get information about what NASA does out to the public, either directly
or through the news media. I work with reporters for newspapers, magazines,
radio stations and television networks to set up interviews with NASA
experts, send out news releases and put together web sites. My getting
into public affairs is a follow-on to my first career as a newspaper
reporter and editor.
My "baby" is the NASA
Human Spaceflight Website -- I led a team that started development
of the site in 1995. Although I don't do the day-to-day management of
the site any more, I still work with all the NASA centers to make sure
the best information available about human spaceflight is getting onto
that web site, which is supposed to be the main place people go on the
web for that kind of information.
I work as the "Voice of Mission Control," during
shuttle missions and space station expeditions, as the "announcer" who
explains what the astronauts are doing in space. I'm also the computer
expert for our office.
I also manage the content of the JSC Web, covering
all activities of the Johnson Space Center, and production of the Daily
Cyber Space Roundup, a daily online newspaper for JSC employees.
I serve as the chief information officer for JSC
Public Affairs, as a member of the JSC Information Technology Steering
Committee and as the Public Affairs Office Computer Security Official.
It all keeps me quite busy!
Education and Career Journey
I graduated from Wichita North High School (Kansas)
in 1974. I received my bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1981,
and my master of arts degree in public administration in 1986 -- both
from Wichita State University.
I began my journalism career in 1973 as a copy boy
for the Wichita Eagle-Beacon newspaper, the largest daily newspaper
in Kansas, serving also as an editorial clerk and police reporter until
1980. I then joined the Hutchinson News as a general assignment reporter.
I was promoted, in 1981, to night editor -- responsible for planning,
layout, editing and headline writing for all news pages and supervising
a staff of 10 reporters.
While working on my master's degree, I worked as
an intern in the City of Wichita City Manager's Office, serving as the
public affairs officer for the city. I also had the opportunity to work
as a Presidential Management Intern, which
is when I accepted a position with the public affairs office at JSC,
in 1986 -- where I was editor of the official center newspaper, Space
News Roundup, from 1987-1998. In 1989, I was promoted to internal
communications manager, in charge of the newspaper, the recorded telephone
Employee Information Service and the new Daily Space Fax Roundup.
In 1990, I began work as a Mission Control Center commentator, providing
"play-by-play" coverage of space shuttle mission activities. I have
served as a commentator on more than 40 space shuttle missions.
In 1995, I was assigned to lead a NASA-wide team
in the development of an online Internet information resource for reporters
and the public that became known as the NASA Shuttle Web. Later that
same year, I led the team that developed the NASA Shuttle-Mir Web, providing
online information about the continuing American presence aboard the
Russian Mir Space Station. The three web sites received numerous awards.
In 1998, the three web sites were combined into
the NASA Human Spaceflight Web to promote the symbiotic nature of the
programs, and to provide for expansion into future human space exploration
areas. In August 1999, the web site was named as one of the Top 50 scientific
and technical web sites in the world by Popular Science magazine, and
as one of the Top Space Exploration web sites by Yahoo Internet Life
In December 1999, I was picked by three NASA associate
administrators to lead an agency-wide team whose goal is to integrate
a collection of independent web sites dealing with human spaceflight
into a unified web presence for the Human Exploration and Development
of Space enterprise. In April 2000, I had the honor of being named a
Computerworld Smithsonian laureate for my work on this web site, which
is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution's
National Museum of American History.
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. My mom was a newspaper
reporter and food editor, and my dad was a newspaper photographer. My
dad died in a plane crash when I was three years old. My mom got married
again when I was 10 and I got two stepbrothers and two stepsisters.
I went to McLean Elementary in Wichita, then John Marshall Junior High
and North High School. I went to college at Wichita State University,
my hometown school.
Growing up, I always wanted to be an astronaut.
I have been interested in the space program ever since my mom let me
stay home from kindergarten to watch Alan Shepard's first short flight
into space, May 5, 1961. (I actually got to meet Shepard, here in Houston,
during the 20th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 mission in
I've always loved camping and still do it a lot.
I'll never forget the time my mom, stepdad, stepbrother and I drove
the Alaskan Highway in our Mercury Marquis station wagon, camping out
all the way from Kansas to Alaska. When we were camped out south of
Fairbanks at Harding Lake, I got up very early one morning because of
some noise outside in the campground. I took my camera outside and took
pictures of a big brown bear that was making the rounds with her two
cubs. While I was outside the tent, the bear came to our campsite. There
wasn't any food in the trash for the bear to find at our campsite, so
the bear got mad and took a swipe at our tent, knocking it down while
my folks were inside. I went and woke them up (they slept through it
all and no one was hurt), and then we stayed up and built a big fire
to keep the bears away the rest of the night. My mom wouldn't camp out
any more on that trip, so we stayed in hotels on the way home.
My grandfather Ralph was my best role model. He
kind of took over as my "dad" when my real father was killed. My folks
moved out of Wichita about the time I was graduating from high school,
so I went to live with him and my grandmother then. I ended up living
with him the whole time I went to college. He was my best friend and
roommate, until he died at age 93. He sold Oldsmobiles until he was
80 years old, and I would like to have as long and productive a life
as he had. The other thing he taught me a lot about is having a good
balance in your life. I think it is important to balance things like
career and family, work and play, exercise and relaxation.
As a kid, I loved to read all kinds of books, but
especially adventure stories. I read a lot of Mark Twain books, like
"Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer," and then discovered science fiction.
Some of my favorite science fiction authors are Frank Herbert ("Dune"),
Isaac Asimov ("Foundation" and a whole lot more), and Roger Zelazny
("The Amber Chronicles").
Family and Personal
I live in Nassau Bay, right across the street from
the Johnson Space Center, in a house that was originally built by Walt
Cunningham, the Apollo 7 astronaut. It is a really cool house.
I have been married and divorced twice, and have
one daughter, Lauren, who is 14. She is an aspiring ballet dancer (her
mother was a professional ballet dancer) and singer (no one knows where
that came from, but she's great!).
I share the house with my Great Dane, Astra (named
from the Kansas state motto of "Ad Astra Per Aspera" which means
"To the stars through difficulty" in Latin), and Cocker Spaniels,
Sophie and Samantha. Astra is two, but acts like a big puppy. She likes
to grab Sam by the collar and gallop around the back yard, carrying
her. Sam doesn't like it much, but puts up with it.
My family likes to go camping and mountain bike
riding, or go out to a movie and eat sushi. I also enjoy playing basketball,
softball and darts. I'm also a pretty good cook (Lauren's favorite is
my mushroom burgers).
I like creating things - whether it is writing a
story or news release, translating all of the highly technical stuff
NASA does into something you and other people can understand or building
a web page. I like "tricking" computers into doing what I want them
to do. My least favorite part of the job is the paperwork.
A word of advice: Get a good general education,
where you learn a little about a lot of different things. Be sure to
study your math and engineering (wish I had studied those better, now).
Most important -- learn how to learn and how to communicate what you
learn to other people in a way that they can understand it, too.
Future Plans and Goals
Most important, I'm looking forward to seeing my daughter
continue to grow up and become good at what she likes to do. I enjoy
working with NASA, and hope to continue doing so, and to help the agency
in whatever capacity I can. I believe human space flight is extremely
important to the continued development of the human race, and am happy
to play whatever small part I can to make space travel an everyday thing
for all of us.