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
[ 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
[ 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
It depends on many thousands of people.
[ GeorgeThomas/KSC - 55 - 10:24:47
RE: [Luke-Jackie/ReillySchool] Is it very quiet
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
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
[ 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
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
[ 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
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
[ 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
[ 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.