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Black History Month QuestChat Archive
Date: February 29, 2000
Featuring: Donald James
Education Branch Director/Chief
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, CA

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 3 - 09:40:56 ]
Hello to our early arriving chat participants. Today's chat with Donald James from NASA Ames Research Center will begin in approximately 20 minutes. Be sure you have read Donald's profile at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats/special/mlk00/bios/james.html to prepare your questions.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 4 - 09:41:20 ]
Today's chat will be MODERATED to help Donald keep up with our questions. This means only a few questions will be posted in the chat room at a time. DON'T WORRY if you don't see your questions on your screen immediately. We will post new questions for Donald every few minutes.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 5 - 09:41:43 ]
At the conclusion of today's chat, please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us. Visit our NASA QuestChat Information Center at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats where you can use our online surveys. We look forward to hearing from you!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 6 - 10:00:12 ]
Hello and welcome to today's Black History Month chat with Donald James from NASA Ames Research Center!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 7 - 10:00:23 ]
Donald James oversees the various people and project operations within the Education Branch. He also guides the branch in meeting NASA's goals for educational outreach.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 8 - 10:00:41 ]
And now, here is Donald James to answer your questions.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 11 - 10:01:16 ]
RE: [Oran/NASAChatHost] And now, here is Donald James to answer your questions.
Hi Oran - I am glad to be here!

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 12 - 10:02:14 ]
RE: [Brian] I read that you traveled to other countries as a kid. What was that like?
Hi Brian - I really liked travelling to many countries. It helped appreciate other cultures and people different from me and it helped me appreciate my own country much better.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 13 - 10:03:32 ]
RE: [Terri] Did you ever want to be an astronaut?
Hi Terri - I never wanted to be an Astronaut - I did want to be a pilot. However, now that I know how great it would be to go in space I would first in line!

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 16 - 10:06:38 ]
RE: [David/Norton] What is a typical day like for you at work?
I try to go to the gym early in the morning. I get to my desk around 8 or 8:30am. I read my e-mails (I get LOTS of e-mails!), talk to people who work with me, and usually I have several meetings to go to. I leave around 5 or 5:30pm. Everyday is different and that's one of the reasons I like my job.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 18 - 10:09:06 ]
RE: [Stacy] Donald, how does it feel to work at NASA?
Well Stacey - I never thought I would work for NASA, in fact as you can see from education background my interests were in international affairs. I had a chance to work for NASA after graduate school and thought "hey, why not?" After 3 or 4 years I quickly learned how much I love the work that NASA does. There are very smart people who work here, and the things NASA is working on now will become common knowledge and a part of your life several years from now. I still think NASA is a very cool place to work and I have been here 18 years!

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 21 - 10:11:00 ]
RE: [Stacy] What other kinds of work would you like to do if you weren't at NASA?
that's a good question - since I like to travel I suppose I would have a job that allowed me to travel. Right now my main commitment is to my wife and two kids so that's where I spend most of my non-work time. I also like to read a lot so maybe I'd hang out in libraries :)

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 22 - 10:12:46 ]
RE: [David/Norton] What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is first the great people I work with. Being around some of the smartest people in the world means I get to learn new things all the time. The second best thing is that I DO work for NASA and NASA has good "name" recognition. I haven't been to too many places where people didn't know about NASA and that feels great.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 26 - 10:15:19 ]
RE: [Stacy] What do your kids think about you working at NASA? Do they want or do you want them to do what you're doing?
My kids like it that I work at NASA. They always want to come to work with me and when I get a chance to work away from Ames, like doing a demonstration at an exhibit booth, they really like to help me. My son Brandon can't understand though why he can't go to Space Camp right now. He's only seven and you have to be older.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 27 - 10:16:22 ]
Welcome to those of you just arriving for our chat with Donald James. Please send your questions in, and we will post then in the chat room as soon as we can.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 28 - 10:18:20 ]
RE: [Charles] Have you met any astronauts? Are there any Black astronauts now?
I have met several Astronauts. There are some Black Astronauts and some new ones who haven't flown yet. I had the chance to meet Guy Bluford, America's first Black Astronaut (that went into space), and I did a school presentation with Fred Gregory who still works for NASA now. I also had a chance to meet Mae Jemison, the first Black female Astronaut when she came to Ames. I believe there are two black female astronauts in training now.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 29 - 10:20:24 ]
RE: [DonaldJames/ARC] I have met several Astronauts. There are some Black Astronauts and some new ones who haven't flown yet. I had the chance to meet Guy Bluford, America's first Black Astronaut (that went into space), and I did a school presentation with Fred Gregory who still works for NASA now. I also had a chance to meet Mae Jemison, the first Black female Astronaut when she came to Ames. I believe there are two black female astronauts in training now.
Charles, you can view many of our past, present and future astronauts on our Black History Month chat page, at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats/special/mlk00. Click on "African American Astronauts" on that page.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 31 - 10:23:16 ]
RE: [David/Norton] Donald, how does your master's degree in International Development and Public Administration help you in your work?
that's a good question David. Since much of what I do on a day-to-day basis is manage programs and people, my early school training prepared me for knowing that to get certain things done you have to understand people, money, resources, timing, customers, and a lot of details that you might not think is important. I also learned in International Development that certain economic principles that apply to developing countries also apply to parts of this country. For example many aspects of economic life in West Virginia, Mississippi, parts of California where I am from are similar to the economic situations I studied in college and graduate school. This allowed me to appreciate the challenges of, for example, bringing the Internet into poor communities, or changing a states' economy from, say coal, to high tech. These problems have been studied around the world.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 33 - 10:26:30 ]
RE: [Sam/Beloit] How did you become branch chief? Do you need to know science or math for your job?
I became branch chief last year. I feel as though I have been preparing for this job for most of my NASA career. I did a lot of training and took assignments to help me better understand NASA's mission and NASA's Education mission. I have to know some math and science to do my job - mainly enough to know what the researchers are talking about so I can help communicate that knowledge to my customers (teachers and students)

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 35 - 10:27:11 ]
RE: [Charles] How many people do you supervise?
I have 13 direct reports and approx. 35 contractors that work in my branch.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 36 - 10:28:19 ]
RE: [Stacy] What kinds of books do you like to read? Where are some of the places you would like to travel?
I like to read non-fiction books. Right now I am reading a book by Lawrence Otis Graham called Our Kind of People. It is about America's "Black Elite."

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 37 - 10:30:30 ]
RE: [DonaldJames/ARC] I like to read non-fiction books. Right now I am reading a book by Lawrence Otis Graham called Our Kind of People It is about America's "Black Elite."
Donald, I've also heard about that book, and plan to read it (soon, I hope).

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 40 - 10:31:41 ]
RE: [Sam/Beloit] Mr. James, what was it like for your growing up in Stockton?
My family moved away when I was 5 so I don't remember too much. I mainly remember growing up in Sacramento. I always loved coming home to Sacramento after going overseas. Most of my childhood friends I knew in Sacramento. Sacramento is also where I was exposed to many black men who were real role models for me.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 41 - 10:34:05 ]
RE: [Sam/Beloit] Since your family is in different places in the country, how often do you see each other?
My mom is in Sacramento and I see her about once a month. My dad is in Maryland I see him usually when I have a business trip to Washington, DC, which isn't often so I call him at least once a week and exchange e-mails with him. My sister lives in Oakland with her husband I see her about once a month, and my brother who flies I see about once every two months. We try to get together for holidays.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 45 - 10:36:39 ]
RE: [Brian] As a kid, did you ever get discouraged or have difficulty reaching your dreams?
Good question - I was discouraged when I realized I would not fulfill my dreams to fly planes. I think it had to do with the difference between what I had an "interest" in vs. what I was good at. the neat thing is that when I told my dad my dilemma he was very supportive and told me he thought this would happen but I had to discover it on my own. Funny - now that I am with NASA I get to be around cool planes and spacecraft and new technology all the time -so it all worked out.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 46 - 10:38:35 ]
RE: [Sandy] Were you ever discriminated against because of your race?
I don't think I was ever denied a job, promotion or anything like that because I am black. Obviously I have suffered racist reactions and comments and other behaviors that are hurtful tome. This is a common experience with black people. As much as I try to ignore those rare incidences and move on it still hurts.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 47 - 10:39:01 ]
RE: [Brian] What kinds of sports did you like to play as a kid?
tennis, basketball and football

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 51 - 10:42:06 ]
RE: [Charles] Did your father and mother influence your career developement ?
very much so - both had advanced degrees and went to prestigious schools - my mom went to Spelman in Atlanta and my dad went to Yale Law School in Connecticut. Though they never tried to influence a particular course of study, they did insist that whatever we chose we should strive for excellence. (I think my dad wanted me to go to Law School, but since two of my younger siblings did he felt better :)

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 52 - 10:44:59 ]
RE: [Sandy] Are NASA and the astronauts the same in real life like they are on tv?
hmmm... I haven't seen too many Astronauts on TV (we don't have TV in our house) - I can say that they are like many professionals you meet everywhere. Most are fun to be around and most really like to talk about what it's like to be in space or to be training for a mission. I would say most Astronauts have a very kid-like quality about them. They want to know about everything and ask lots of questions - Astronauts are also not afraid to admit when they don't know something - a good quality!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 53 - 10:45:42 ]
We would like to remind you to send your comments about today's chat to us. Visit our NASA QuestChat Information Center at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats to use our online feedback forms.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 54 - 10:47:12 ]
RE: [Stacy] Where are some of the places you would like to travel?
I have never been to South America, China or Russia or Australia so I would like to go to those places. I also haven't traveled to many places in the USA and very much want to do more right here. Recently for example, I had the privilege of traveling to an Indian Reservation in Mississippi. That was a real learning experience for me.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 56 - 10:49:22 ]
RE: [Jason] If you could go back and do something differently, what would you do?
I like this question - I would enjoy the moment more; I would say thank you more. I would ask many more questions of my teachers and parents and friends. I would study architecture and design buildings and cities. I would read more.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 59 - 10:50:49 ]
RE: [Judy] Of all the places you've visited, which is your favorite?
I think I liked Kenya the best. I was in 9th grade there. and visited some of the most beautiful game parks and beaches in the world. I want to take my children there some day.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 61 - 10:54:00 ]
RE: [Brian] You said you get to be around a lot of cool planes and space craft. Have you ever flown or been in any of them, like to space shuttle?
We have a space shuttle simulator here that all the Astronauts come and use to practice special challenges in landing the space shuttle. The simulator is the only one of its kind in the world - giving the Astronauts the feeling like they're really flying the real thing. I got to fly the simulator and that was - WOW!! I got to land the Shuttle at Edwards AFB and at the Kennedy Space Center. I didn't crash or skid off the runway. The best moment came when the Astronaut flying with me said - "you're pretty good at this." That made my day.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 64 - 10:56:30 ]
RE: [Charles] What was the most exciting or scary experience you have ever had in your travels?
Our family was on safari in Tanzania which is south of Kenya and we were visiting Ngorongoro crater - a crater that can easily be seen from space because it is 17 miles across. AS we were descending into the crater floor on a narrow rocky road with no barriers on the "down" side the axle broke on our Land Rover and it skidded about 25 feet before stopping. The car was loaded with people and supplies and we could have gone over the edge. That was scary!

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 66 - 10:57:58 ]
RE: [Jason] Since we had some problems with the Mars missions, do you think we will ever get the chance to go?
absolutely!! It is from the problems that we'll learn how to do it - just hope we as a country don't chicken out and decide not to try. Not trying is worse than failing in my book.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 69 - 10:59:08 ]
RE: [Sandy] Do you remember the Apollo missions?
I know exactly where I was when Armstrong set foot on the moon. I think I was more amazed that we were watching it live on TV!! I remember going outdoors all the time to look at the moon and saying - this is happening right now.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 70 - 11:01:12 ]
RE: [Eric] What has been the most memorable thing you've done or been part of while you've worked at NASA? What's been the least memorable?
unfortunately the most memorable was the Challenger accident. That changed NASA forever. It was emotional for me because I, like many of my NASA colleagues who were here during Challenger, took the loss personally. I hope that never happens again - but unfortunately one day it will.

[ DonaldJames/ARC - 71 - 11:03:56 ]
RE: [Stacy] What are some of your future goals?
Great question - I would like to be at NASA long enough to see a human set foot on Mars and returned safely. I want to be a part of the effort and do my part to prepare today's students for the challenges of going to Mars. I want to know that when we do go to Mars that the person who first sets foot there perhaps was a student moved by one of the many great education programs NASA has to offer and decided to be a space explorer.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 72 - 11:04:16 ]
This concludes today's Black History Month chat with Donald James from NASA Ames Research Center. We would like to thank our chatters for joining us today, and offer our thanks and appreciation to Donald for sharing his time with us and his thoughtful responses to our questions. THANK YOU, Donald.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 73 - 11:04:32 ]
As a final reminder, visit our NASA QuestChat Information Center at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats to send your comments about today's chat to us.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 75 - 11:07:56 ]
This concludes NASA Quest's special series of Black History Month chats for this year. We hope you enjoyed this year's series, and look forward to hearing from you online in the near future. Thank you for your participation, and have a good day.


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