- BS Metallurgical Engineering 1992
Jerry Jason is a well-grounded pioneer whose frontier is the sky.
Jason is a flight director at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He is responsible for managing and carrying out human space flights to the International Space Station (ISS). Only seventy-five flight directors have served at NASA in the fifty years of space flight.
"It's an incredible responsibility and I'm excited about it," Jason says. "I love the space program and can't imagine having a better job."
Flight directors lead a team of flight controllers, support personnel, and engineers who are responsible for shuttle flights and space station expeditions. They monitor all the human activity and the operations, including emergencies, on the ISS, which is manned by a three-person, soon to be six-person, crew.
Jason says the work demands both technological know-how and a logical approach to duties, for which, he says, Michigan Tech prepared him well. "The engineering program at Tech helped develop my ability to quickly analyze problems and find solutions. In the Mission Control Center, we call this a 'failure, impact, workaround' methodology. No matter what it is called, the idea is the same-an engineer is trained to determine a problem, pinpoint a root cause, and find an answer."
That's a steadfast approach to a rapidly changing world. "Technology changes fast," he says. "There is almost continuous improvement of existing technologies and development of new."
Besides his education, another key to his success has been the realization that "your degree is just the starting point-that every day is another opportunity to learn from your peers and gain a greater experience."
Jason, 41, a native of Westland, Michigan, came to Tech because of its solid reputation in engineering. He studied metallurgical engineering because it was an attractive "hybrid" of chemistry, physics, and engineering principles.
While at Tech, his dream was to be a pilot; it proved an unattainable goal because of his poor eyesight. So these days his eyes are on the moon and beyond. He expects to be an ISS flight director for seven or eight years. Then he hopes to switch to the Constellation Program, which will allow the US to return to the moon as early as 2020. To do so, NASA is building a new launch vehicle, called Ares, to carry the new crew capsule, called Orion. After revisiting the moon, NASA will design, build, and develop the next space vehicles that will put a man on Mars in the next generation.
Jason attributes his successes in part to his wife, Melinda. "She is more than my wife," he says. "She is a partner, a friend, and my greatest supporter." Besides her support, he abides by this ethic: "Work hard, be honest, and keep pursuing your dreams."
Jason started working at NASA in 1996 after five years in industry. He has served as director of NASA's Avionics Branch, assistant to the director of the Johnson Space Center, a flight controller, and a member of a support team for mechanical and crew systems.
Overall, he has supported 28 space shuttle missions. The most gratifying part of this work? "That NASA and the public have entrusted me with the safety of our astronauts."