Flight Operations Engineer / European Space Agency
Andrea Boyd is the International Space Station Flight Operations Engineer at the European Space Agency. She is the only one allowed to speak to astronauts while they are on mission.
Growing up in Adelaide, Boyd used to watch the television program Star Trek: Voyager religiously, and adored the character of B'elanna Torres, who was the Chief Engineer on the show.
“I loved it,” says Boyd. “I looked at her and I thought 'I’m going to do that one day, I’m going to make everything electrical and mechanical work in space.'”
Now, she does. For the past four years, Boyd has worked as an International Space Station Flight Operations Engineer at the European Space Agency – Europe’s gateway to space.
If you’ve ever seen the film Apollo 13, you probably remember the line “Houston, we have a problem.” Boyd is that person the ‘Houston’. In fact, she is EuroCom.
“They only ever say ‘Houston’ in the movies,” Boyd says.
“In reality, there are five mission control centres: two in the United States, one in Europe, one in Russia and one in Japan.”
At each of the mission controls, only one person is allowed to talk to the astronauts in space.
“I’m the one that talks back to space when the astronauts are conducting their experiments,” says Boyd.
A regular day for Boyd involves working an eight-hour shift and making sure everything goes smoothly for the team in space. Each day and each task the astronauts carry out is highly planned and scheduled.
“I need to have a broad overview of all experiments,” says Boyd.
This is not an easy task.There are four different science laboratories operating on the International Space Station. That means there are usually a few hundred experiments happening at any one time. Sometimes they are ‘basic’ science experiments involving different materials and physics. Sometimes they are biological and medical tests.
Every six months, the astronauts receive a new set of experiments and every three months, there is a different combination of astronauts to work with.
“Day to day it’s not the easiest thing to do,” says Boyd. “But I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. “I work in a really dynamic environment.”
Andrea is appearing at the Sunrise Conference on our Space Panel. She is joined by Flavia Tata Nardini (Fleet), Adam Gilmour (Gilmour Space) and Dr Jason Held (Saber Astronautics).
Source: First published on www.australiaunlimited.com