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Saturday, September 8, 2012

One of My Favorite Space Center Experiences

Hello Troops,
James Porter grew up with the Space Center.  He came on several camps as a youngling.  He joined the volunteer organization when he got a bit older and eventually became a Flight Director.  He has since gone on to serve an LDS mission to England, graduate from university, marry, become a dad and currently works as a teacher at the Thomas Edison Charter School in Logan.

The following is something Jame's wrote several years ago about his experience as a Flight Director at the Space Center.  I thought I'd share it with you.

Mr. W. 


One of My Favorite Space Center Experiences

One of my favorite experiences as a new Flight Director was when one particular crew was doing amazingly well during their mission.  I had only been a Flight Director for a few weeks, and they had gotten past the parts of the story I knew. I looked down at the clock expecting to tell them that they were out of time, only to realize that there was three hours left in their mission. Fear set in.

I had no idea how the rest of the mission went and there was no one to ask who knew.   I turned to my one volunteer and told her to be ready for anything, because even I didn't know what was going to happen next.  For the next three hours, I frantically searched through videotapes, finding the right visual effects for the story that I was making up on the spot. I threw every obstacle I could at them, from Romulan smugglers to Orion pirates. After a grueling 3 hours, I opened up the doors to let them out.  To my surprise they were cheering about all of the different things they had accomplished.

That mission pushed me to the edge of my creative skills, and it became one of the best missions I ever ran.

Knowing that I helped them feel as though they had accomplished something on their own, and hearing those cheers of joy at the end of the mission kept me working at the Space Center.   As a Flight Director, I was able to challenge my crew's ethical values and knowledge through problems they had to solve embedded in the missions I told. In those problem situations, they had to state their values and prove them through their decisions and actions. Many times my crews were too stressed to do anything, or they just couldn't think of the right thing to do in the time I gave them. But, with a little bit of advice and a few hints, they were able to figure out good solutions. 

I remember one flight where a smaller crew member didn't quite fit in. In the middle of the mission the crew had to navigate through a thick asteroid belt. To my surprise, this small in stature and quiet crew member told the others that he was in charge of steering the ship.  He told them he could get them through. After a few chuckles from some of the older crew members, the Captain silenced his crew and looked directly at the young Navigation's officer. With a clear and commanding voice, the Captain gave him the order to navigate through. The crew was in shock; suddenly alternative ideas of how to get through the asteroid field  came from the crew. This captain again turned and looked directly at his navigation officer and asked, "Are you sure you can get us through alive?"

This frightened little navigator looked back into the captain's eyes, and as loud as he could, he replied, "YES, SIR!"

To the crew's horror they entered the asteroid field. The astonished crew watched as the young navigator maneuvered skillfully through hundreds of asteroids and eventually brought them safely to the other side. This young man's success brought the crew to look to this, the smallest of them, for ideas throughout the remainder of the mission.

My days were awesome If I did my job right and my crews truly succeeded.  Their cheers fueled me on. I cherished those cheers.  They are fond memories of my time at the Space Center.

At that time in my life, the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center was the most important thing in my life. I am not sure how I would have turned out had I not worked at the Space Center. I'm glad I had the opportunity to work and grow at the CMSEC.

James Porter
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