Making A Difference

Keeping the Missions Under Control

Norman Knight (GMP 9, 2010)

Norman Knight (GMP 9, 2010) is Executive Flight Director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In this interview, he talks about the unique blend of scientific and technical skills and the management expertise needed to send astronauts into space.

“I am the chief flight director for all human space flight activities. What that means is that all operations that take place for human space flight, real-time operations, and development fall under my purview.

“The skill set that I have to have is very broad, and what the HBS General Management Program did was open my eyes to the skill sets [I needed] and the blind spots I had that I was not aware of, working internationally, and working with our corporate partnerships, which is really kind of new for NASA.

“We’re partnering with commercial entities like SpaceX and Boeing, where NASA’s not necessarily in the lead role. We’re more of a requirements interpretation and making sure, again, that the astronauts are safe. But that provider is providing the service to NASA to get them from the launch pad to the International Space Station. So those roles have changed.

“I’m an aeronautical engineer and I take that and I apply it today to what I do as chief flight director for human space flight. I have to understand when things happen on the spacecraft, when things fail, when things don’t work the way they should, I have to understand the physic behind that, because not every problem has a direct solution.

“I participate in a great way to advancing what we’re doing in human space flight and I get to work with the astronauts every day. And that is really exciting, and the teams of people that are involved make it enjoyable. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the people and it’s all about the objective and mission that we’re all aligned to achieving on a daily basis.”

(Published April 2017)

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