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Yasmin Goes to Space! (aka, my first few weeks at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Originally posted on my blog http://bonnieandyasmin.com

Ok, I didn’t really go to space. I did, however, find my way down to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where I will be working on an enterprise 2.0 project for the next few months.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is headquartered in Washington DC, and its mission is to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”[1] It was established under President Eisenhower in 1958, put men on the moon in 1969, launched the space shuttle to provide ongoing access to space in 1981, established with Russia the International Space Station in 2000, landed the Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004, sent Cassini to orbit around the Saturn in 2004, and continues to supports the repaired Hubble Space Telescope for deep space exploration.

NASA headquarters is organized around the following mission directorates:

  • “Aeronautics: pioneers and proves new flight technologies that improve our ability to explore and which have practical applications on earth”
  • “Exploration Systems: creates capabilities for sustainable human and robotic exploration”
  • “Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefit of Earth and space exploration for society.”
  • “Space operations: provides critical enabling technologies for much of the rest of NASA through the space shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support”[3]

NASA’s work is supported through ten centers, each of which has a unique way of contributing to NASA’s overall mission, ranging from Astronaut Training and Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, to Deep Space Robotics Research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, to Kennedy Space Center, which is the launch site for many space vehicles. You can find more information about these and other NASA centers here.

I am working down at Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, MD, who’s mission is as follows:

“The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)…expands the knowledge of Earth and its environment, the solar system, and the universe through observations from space. The Center also conducts scientific investigations, develops and operates space systems, and advances essential technologies.”[4]

In practical terms, they build and operate spacecraft and collect cool data about the earth and the stars and everything in between:

Goddard is a major laboratory for developing and operating unmanned scientific spacecraft. We are an end-to-end science mission operation. At Goddard and within Engineering, we design missions, build satellites and instruments, operate and control spacecraft, and acquire and distribute data to the world-wide science community. Our data products are used to conduct research in Earth and Space Sciences that benefit both the nation and the world.[5]

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds).

Goddard’s work is organized into several different directorates:

  • flight projects
  • science and exploration
  • applied engineering and technology
  • information technology and communications
  • suborbital and special orbital projects (Wallops Flight Facility)

My contract is with the Applied Engineering DirectorateSoftware Engineering Division → Computing Environments and Collaborative Technologies Branch. I’ve been brought on to do evaluation and planning work to explore how the use of open and collaborative (web 2.0) tools can help and support the work of the engineers in this directorate.

I’m currently in the discovery phase of this process, scoping out the boundaries of the project, setting goals, objectives, and outcomes, establishing open and collaborative processes for the evaluation and planning phase, developing an evaluation tool based on leading research in knowledge management, enterprise 2.0, and online community building, and am starting to meet with and interview key stakeholders in this project. I’m also just learning as much as I can about the history and culture of the organization, so I can best connect with their needs, and make recommendations that make sense in this context.

In doing this work, part of my job is to make sure that I live by the principles that we are tying to promote, and I’m going to use this space to communicate key findings, decisions, and lessons learned along the way, and hope to get feedback from people working on or interested in this project.

NASA is an awesome agency. I love this country, and believe that government can make this world a better place to live in. For me, NASA is a wonderful reminder that when we set clear goals, support talented employees and dedicate ourselves to pushing boundaries and working hard, our government and our nation can produce amazing things.

I’m really excited about this first project and look forward to sharing as much as possible – I’ll be blogging at http://bonnieandyasmin.com but will be sure to cross-post on GovLoop as well ūüôā

– Yasmin

P.S. NASA uses the data they collect in innumerable ways; I would encourage you to interact with Goddard on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and/or Flickr if you are interested in learning more. They have a great Public Affairs Office, and put out tons of cool stuff on a regular basis. Astronomy Picture of the Day is pretty cool too.

1-3. What Does NASA Do? Mission statement obtained from NASA website, accessed on July 29th, 2010. Back to post
4. The NASA Organization w/Change 9 (June 14, 2010). Accessed July 14th, 2010 Back to post
5. About the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate (AETD) Back to post

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: All opinions and opinion-like ideas in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center or ASRCfederal or ARTS or any other person, agency, or organization. Furthermore, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA, or any other agency or organization listed in this disclaimer. Its just me!

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Very cool. I got a couple friends at Goddard if you want intros who may have ideas. Send me DM

What a mission statement….Agencies really need to reinforce the importance of the missions – so important.