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Space Team Online Chat

Date: March 19, 1998

Featuring: George Thomas
Ground Launch Sequencer Group
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 14 - 10:01:47 ]
Welcome to today's chat with George Thomas from NASA Kennedy Space Center! George is one of two people who pushes "THE BUTTON" which stops or starts the launch countdown clock at Kennedy Space Center. Once George pushes the button, software programs begin communicating with the space shuttle's systems. His group is responsible for writing this software, which also monitors the space shuttle and controls all of its systems during the last 9 minutes before a launch.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 16 - 10:02:09 ]
And now, here is George Thomas to answer your questions.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 17 - 10:04:20 ]
Who out there among you has the first question?

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 19 - 10:06:08 ]
RE: [MsBarge-Jackie/ReillySchool] Hello from Chicago. This is Reilly School. We have a class of 24 5th graders.
Ms. Barge, George Thomas is ready to take your class' questions.

[ Micheal-Jackie/ReillySchool - 20 - 10:06:36 ]
Mr. Thomas what do you think about the subway commerical?

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 22 - 10:08:26 ]
Michael-Jackie/ReillySchool - If you mean the one where the guy is sleeping at the console, I think it is very funny. My own kids tease me and say that it's me.

Micheal-Jackie/ReillySchool - 24 - 10:09:18 ]
Yes that is the one we meant!!

[ Xavier-Jackie/ReillySchool - 21 - 10:08:21 ]
So all you do is push one button? How tough is your work? Do you have to push other buttons?

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 25 - 10:09:31 ]
Xavier-Jackie/ReillySchool - I push much more than just one button; I spend most of my time, changing computer programs for the next shuttle launch.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 27 - 10:11:34 ]
RE: [Dominick-Jackie/ReillySchool] Did you ever see any accidents at the launch site? Has the shuttle tipped over a little bit or something blew up?
I saw the Challenger accident back in 1986, but no others.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 30 - 10:13:06 ]
RE: [Lydia-Jackie/ReillySchool] Have you ever been inside of a space shuttle? We know you are not an astronaut.
Yes I have been inside the shuttles here at KSC and at some simulators out in JSC (Houston).

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 31 - 10:13:47 ]
RE: [James-Jackie/ReillySchool] Have you ever met any astronauts?
I have met many of the astronauts and I can tell you they are all very nice and very smart people.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 34 - 10:15:46 ]
RE: [Jonathan-Jackie/ReillySchool] Why do you say Roger after statements during launch?
Roger is a word that came from the old military days and the people that started the space program were old military people, so they used what the were familiar with.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 37 - 10:17:08 ]
RE: [Wholeclass-Jackie/ReillySchool] Have you met Neil Armstrong?
As a matter of fact, I was in the 5th grade living here in FL and my dad worked out here at KSC, so I got to meet Neil one time just before he flew to the moon.

[ Wholeclass-Jackie/ReillySchool - 39 - 10:18:06 ]

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 38 - 10:18:01 ]
RE: [Kevin-Jackie/ReillySchool] What is it like to work at Nasa?
It is fun and rewarding. I feel like what we do helps everybody in the world when new things are found or developed.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 41 - 10:19:10 ]
RE: [Erik-Jackie/ReillySchool] Do you enjoy your job? What do you like best about your job?
I LOVE my job. I guess I like launch days the best. Having your finger on "THE BUTTON" is scary, but thrilling. Do you think you would like such a job?

[ wholeclass-Jackie/ReillySchool - 45 - 10:20:41 ]
20 out of 24 say they would like that job.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 44 - 10:20:07 ]
RE: [Jenna-Jackie/ReillySchool] How many hours do you work a day?
I usually work 8 hours a day, sometimes more and sometimes on the weekend. But I'm probably just like your parents.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 46 - 10:21:02 ]
RE: [Raul-Jackie/ReillySchool] Who is the chief astronaut right now?
I can't remember right now, but on the web at the JSC site they have all the information about all the astronauts.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 50 - 10:22:45 ]
RE: [KevinRath-Columbus] How did you get your job at United Space Alliance?
I went to college studying math (yuck huh?) and engineering then I begged them to let me come work here. I know you could get a job here if you try hard and want to.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 52 - 10:23:46 ]
RE: [Stenia-Jackie/ReillySchool] What do you do when there is no space shuttle launching?
I change the computer programs that will launch the next space shuttle to look for new things that it will have that the last one didn't or make the software better than it was before.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 53 - 10:24:05 ]
RE: [Willhorn-Columbus] Does the mission depend on you?
It depends on many thousands of people.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 55 - 10:24:47 ]
RE: [Luke-Jackie/ReillySchool] Is it very quiet in space?
There is no sound in space at all. Inside the shuttle there is, but only because it has air for the astronauts to breath.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 56 - 10:25:30 ]
RE: [Chris-Jackie/ReillySchool] What would happen if you pressed THE BUTTON a little too late or a little too early?
We wouldn't be able to launch that day and would have to try again the next day. Scary huh?

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 59 - 10:26:23 ]
RE: [Lisa/EmbryRiddleAeronauticalUniversity] Hello Mr. Thomas, I am junior at Embry-Riddle, studying Aerospace Engineering. I am trying for a internship at USA for this summer. Do you know what types of jobs interns usually do?
As a matter of fact I have a Embry Riddle co-op (Jennifer) working for me right now doing software.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 60 - 10:26:55 ]
RE: [HannahMiners-Columbus] Why did you decide to be a engineer?
I love technical stuff and the shuttle is way cool!!!

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 65 - 10:28:13 ]
RE: [Jeremie-Jackie/ReillySchool] Why did you pick this job?
Something new everyday and computers are the latest and greatest thing. Do you like computers?

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 66 - 10:28:57 ]
RE: [Tobi-Jackie/ReillySchool] Are astronauts scared to be in space?
Astronauts love it in space. In fact they complain they don't get to spend enough time up there.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 68 - 10:29:57 ]
RE: [Zoltan-Jackie/ReillySchool] Do you know if any astronauts ever broke anything in the shuttle?
Not that I know of. At least not on purpose.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 71 - 10:30:41 ]
RE: [AnnieBenfield-Columbus] How long did you train for this job?
It took me about a year to study and get certified.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 72 - 10:31:51 ]
RE: [Justyna-Jackie/ReillySchool] How come astronauts can't walk right when they come out of the shuttle?
Being in space doesn't require you to use your muscles. So they get weaker as time goes by. Kind of like being a couch potato for a while. Ever done that?

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 74 - 10:33:06 ]
RE: [Mario-Jackie/ReillySchool] Do you have to train with astronauts at all?
We do practice launches with them. In fact we are doing one next week.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 78 - 10:34:22 ]
RE: [Lisa/EmbryRiddleAeronauticalUniversity] What kinds of computer-programing languages do you recommend I should take while still in school?
I would take C++, JAVA, database classes, but mostly whatever you like. That is most important. You have to do something you like.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 82 - 10:35:00 ]
RE: [ValerieTamburro-Columbus] If you didn't work at USA where would you work?
In the medicine field, making new devices that help the doctors.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 83 - 10:35:52 ]
RE: [Kasey-Jackie/ReillySchool] What happens to the ground after the shuttle launches? Does it get burned or anything? Does the metal around it melt?
The pad has fire's and much of the stuff gets damaged. Keeps us busy fixing it for the next launch.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 85 - 10:36:18 ]
RE: [Derek-Jackie/ReillySchool] Are you friends with astronauts outside of work?
No, they live in Houston, Texas

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 87 - 10:36:49 ]
RE: [Kayla-Jackie/ReillySchool] Do you ever get bored doing your job?
Not really. My coworkers always manage to keep me entertained.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 89 - 10:38:39 ]
RE: [Asia-Jackie/ReillySchool] What does the temperature have to be to launch the space shuttle?
It depends on how little wind there is. If no wind at all, I think it cant get colder than about 40 degrees. But being in Florida we don't like to go outside when it gets colder than that.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 91 - 10:39:37 ]
RE: [Meghan-Jackie/ReillySchool] How long does it take to fix the broken pieces of the launch pad after a launch?
It takes many workers several weeks. Some launches cause more damage than others, but don't know why.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 95 - 10:41:55 ]
RE: [Ewelina-Jackie/ReillySchool] What kind of grades would you have to get in Science to be an astronaut?
You need all A's and B's, mostly A's. Plus you have to go to college for about 7 years and get several degrees.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 96 - 10:42:29 ]
RE: [SuzyWinston-Columbus] What does the button look like? what color?
It's a small clear button, but our software makes it light up orange and green.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 97 - 10:42:51 ]
RE: [KellyWalters-Columbus] What other job would you like to have with space missions ?
I would LOVE to be an astronaut!!!!

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 98 - 10:42:51 ]
RE: [Chris-Jackie/ReillySchool] What would happen if you pressed THE BUTTON a little too late or a little too early?
If the button is not pressed on time, we will miss the launch for that day and have to try again the next day.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 100 - 10:44:48 ]
RE: [Jonphilip-Columbus] How many many missions have you launched/worked with?
I have worked on all shuttle launches since July 1984 (about 75).

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 101 - 10:45:11 ]
RE: [Robert-Jackie/ReillySchool] Why don't you send anyone to the moon anymore?
There just isn't enough money to do it and everything else that is going on right now. But since they found water on the moon, maybe we'll go back real soon. If I go, would you like to join me?

Lisa/EmbryRiddleAeronauticalUniversity - 103 - 10:46:26 ]
I would join you in a second. When I was younger, I always said I was going to be the first woman on the moon. Now I am aiming for MARS!

[ WholeClass-Jackie/ReillySchool - 107 - 10:47:27 ]
We would love to join you on the moon!!

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 106 - 10:47:25 ]
RE: [Kevin-Jackie/ReillySchool] How does it feel to know that you work all the systems at Nasa?
I am very proud of the work I do. I feel like what I do helps you and all your classmates by making better things in this world.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 108 - 10:48:20 ]
RE: [ArinCanbolat-Columbus] What do you do When it's not your turn tobe the Primary GLS engineer?
I am the backup person and I assist the primary person and watch over her shoulder. She does the same for me.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 110 - 10:49:06 ]
RE: [Stenia-Jackie/ReillySchool] How many days did it take to get to the moon? Would it be shorter if we went now?
It takes several days. It wouldn't be any shorter than it was during Apollo.

GeorgeThomas/KSC - 112 - 10:50:09 ]
RE: [Jonathan-Jackie/ReillySchool] What is the youngest age to be an astronaut?
I don't know, but I would bet about 25.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 116 - 10:52:15 ]
RE: [Lisa/EmbryRiddleAeronauticalUniversity] I know that the next shuttle flight is April 9th, what are you doing now specifically to prepare for that launch?
It has been moved to April 16. I just finished changing our software to add code for new ground cooling units. Now we will do a practice launch with the astronauts and begin software changes for STS 91.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 118 - 10:53:45 ]
RE: [Raul-Jackie/ReillySchool] What does your family think of your job? What did your father do at Nasa?
My family is very proud, although my oldest kid is a teenager and so he just doesn't say it any more (wouldn't be cool). My father was a technician who worked on the launch pads.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 119 - 10:54:20 ]
RE: [Stephanie-Columbus] Have you heard of Young Astronauts? We have over 200 students in Young Astronauts and 11 students are training for a 24 hour mission.
Sounds greeeat. I hope you have a great mission. They have similar things down here.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 120 - 10:55:18 ]
RE: [Dominick-Jackie/ReillySchool] Do you ever bring any good luck charms to a launch?
Yes we do. My boss wears lucky butterfly underwear. I wear my lucky tie pin and another guy brings a clove of garlic.

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 124 - 11:01:11 ]
RE: [Dominick-Jackie/ReillySchool] About how many computers are there at Nasa?
In the launch room there are about 100 computers.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 125 - 11:01:20 ]
Everyone, we're happy you joined us today. At this time, we will need to close today's chat session with George Thomas. However, we will have an archive of today's chat online within a couple of days. Thank you very much for joining us today, and we hope you can join us for our next Space Team Online chat. Upcoming chats are listed at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/events/interact.html.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 130 - 11:08:46 ]
RE: [ReillySchool-Jackie/ReillySchool] Thank you for talking with us. We really enjoyed it. Hope to do it again soon.
Thank you for joining us today, Jackie. We hope your students choose to participate in the Junior Space Team Online activity. More information is available at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/kids .

[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 126 - 11:02:12 ]
I will try to do this again very soon and look forward to many more excellent questions.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 127 - 11:05:08 ]
Thank you again to everyone for joining us today, and a special thanks to George Thomas from NASA Kennedy Space Center.


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