Working On The Holiday: Mission Control

Thanksgiving may be a federal holiday, but it doesn't mean everyone gets to stay home. John McCullough, chief of the Flight Director Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston speaks with host Alex Cohen from mission control.

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This is Day To Day. I'm Alex Cohen. Today, the crew of the space shuttle Endeavor is getting a little bit of downtime. They'll have a Thanksgiving dinner of irradiated, freeze-dried smoked turkey and some rehydrated green beans and corn bread. Back here on earth, folks will be hard at work at mission control in Houston. And one of them is John McCullough. He is the chief flight director at NASA. Thanks for joining us, Mr. McCullough.

Mr. JOHN MCCULLOUGH (Chief Flight Director, Johnson Space Center): Happy to be here. It's a great day to be in space.

COHEN: And what about there on the earth? What's going on there where you're working?

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: Well, today is a kind of a starting to wrap the mission up day, so it's been a little bit quieter. As you mentioned, the crew has some off-duty time, and we have some time to get our thoughts together and get ready for undocking tomorrow.

COHEN: And so, what does that involve? What are your tasks for today?

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: Well, they're finishing up their transfer. They've got about five or six hours left to transfer, to get everything settled into the mid-deck. They transferred the module yesterday back into the payload base, so that's completed.

And they're just closing things out, getting ready, saying their goodbyes, and as you mentioned, having their Thanksgiving dinner and taking some pictures and enjoying the moment after four EVAs and a lot of work inside the station.

COHEN: Some folks get a little bit cranky about having to work on the holiday. It's a day that, you know, most of us spend with our family and friends. How do you feel about working on a day that most people get off?

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: Folks that work in NASA have a common bond of a real passion for the space program. So, we wouldn't be here if we didn't have that. And obviously, we'd like to be with our families, but if we can't be there, then the next best place to be is working on a space mission.

So, you know, we've been doing a space station for 10 years straight, and there's been someone here every year for every holiday. And beyond holidays even, you know, one of the crew members on board is having their wedding anniversary just yesterday, and tomorrow's one of the birthdays of one of the flight directors working the flight.

So, we all kind of take care and bond together and take care of each other. And we're having a Thanksgiving dinner here that management's all bringing in for the flight controllers that are working, and we try to shift people out so that, you know, there's three shifts so that people do get some time at home.

COHEN: What do you eat as part of your meal? Do you also have the freeze-dried food as a kind of motion of solidarity with your comrades in space?

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: No, no. We take advantage of the fine available food here in Houston, and we bring food in all of Thanksgiving that's really good.

COHEN: Well, I hope you enjoy it, sir. John McCullough is chief of the flight director office at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Thanks so much.

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: Thank you and have a great holiday.

COHEN: You, too.

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