Today was my last shift as an ODIN (Onboard Data Interfaces and Networks) Officer for the International Space Station (ISS) supporting a shuttle flight. It was bitter-sweet. The timing of my move out of the world of flight control was definitely right with a baby on the way and a desire to focus on other things in my life, but it’s a hard world to leave. Fortunately, I’ll still be supporting the ODIN console as needed during increment operations, which is the time between shuttle flights, so they haven’t completely gotten rid of me yet.
This flight was a special one to me for many reasons. I was the Lead ODIN for this mission, so I have spent several years planning and training for it. It was the mission where our European Space Agency (ESA) partners attached their first module, Columbus, to the ISS. They have been a privilege to work with, and I have been very proud of their performance as flight controllers. This mission did not exactly go according to plan, especially for the ODIN system. During the activation of the Columbus computer systems, the US computers encountered a software problem that brought the activation of this new module to a halt. The teams worked together beautifully to resolve this and other computer problems that occurred in both the US and ESA systems. Once resolved, the module was activated, and the teams were able to celebrate briefly before getting back to work.
This mission also became more important to me after attending International Space University’s Summer Session Program in 2006. I spent the summer working with several members of the ESA team and people from countries all over the world. With the activation of the ESA Columbus module and the JAXA module that is planned to be launched in April, the ISS is finally coming together and bringing people all over the world together as a result.
Finally, as the ODIN lead for this flight I had the opportunity to work with a great group of people internally at NASA. I couldn’t have hoped for a better team. To top that off, this mission turned out to be the last one for my lead Flight Director, Sally Davis, as well. Sally celebrated her 400th shift as an ISS Flight Director during this mission, but she has worked over 1000 shifts throughout her career. She is not leaving NASA but moving on to a different role. She has commanded great respect throughout the time I have known her, and I am proud to have worked under her guidance.
It’s been quite a mission!