pooja jesrani flight director photoIn July of this year, NASA announced its selection of six new mission control flight directors at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Once fully trained, they will sit behind the flight director console in mission control, becoming  part of a group that numbers fewer than 100 since NASA’s first flight director was named in 1958.

ASE/EM alumna Pooja Jesrani is one of these six new flight directors selected this year. She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her new role.

You are one of six new flight directors selected by NASA to lead mission control at NASA-JSC. Can you tell us a little bit about what this position will entail?

As flight directors, we will head teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world and make the real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA and International Partner astronauts safe in space. We will have the opportunity to oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, including integrating American-made commercial crew spacecraft into the fleet of vehicles servicing the orbiting laboratory, as well as Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon and beyond.

How does it feel to know that you are one of only 97 NASA flight directors selected for this elite role since its inception in 1958?

I am very humbled to have been selected to be a part of the Flight Director Class of 2018. To think that there have been 553 people who have flown in space (339 Americans) and less than 100 Flight Directors – it is quite an honor!

What are you most excited about in taking on this new position?

I am the most excited about helping with the challenges ahead. There are a lot of new things happening at NASA right now – it’s really a turning point in space operations. Also, I am excited that no matter how hard the job will be – no two days will be the same and that there is great team of folks willing and ready to help our missions succeed!

How will you be supporting the Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon and beyond?

We have four flight directors in the office that are currently working the Orion mission. Our group will first certify to be ISS Flight Directors and will gain assignments to other missions after that is complete.

What originally sparked your interest in pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering?

I had always been extremely interested in NASA and space exploration as a child, which led me to pursue aerospace engineering at UT. I even had glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling in high school. But, my initial interest actually was sparked by my father (an orthopedic surgeon who is a true space geek at heart).

What would you like to tell aspiring aerospace engineering students about pursuing their goals and dreams?

I would tell aspiring students to just continue to work hard. Seek every opportunity and know that every day is an interview. You will never know when that time that you worked hard will pay off in the future but it will! Also, seek out mentors who are in roles that you would like to be in and continue to change your mentors as you grow throughout your career.

Do you have any favorite memories as a UT Aerospace student?

Oh, I have many. I actually worked at the front office for many years – so that was a great place to meet the aerospace department as well as get to know the students more. I also have many memories at the LRC studying the night away and the same with the basement as well.

What kinds of things do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and my 2.5 year old daughter. I also really enjoy traveling, baking and fashion. Hook ‘Em!