Back to work at the European Astronaut Centre with Tim next door, adjusting to gravity in Envihab! His first public talk was here on Tuesday 21st June. You can watch the replay here: http://livestream.com/ESA/events/5644661
Torrens Valley Christian School (1989-2001) in Adelaide, Australia and Liceo Psico Pedagogico Lombardo Radice (1999-2000) in Catania, Italy. University of Adelaide (2003-2008) in Adelaide, Australia and Yeungnam University (2007) in Gyeongsang, South Korea.
South Australian Certificate of Education (95.35), B. Engineering (Mechatronic) Thesis: Designed, built and launched from Woomera a supersonic ramjet!
I worked at LogiCamms in Australia as a Control Systems Engineer automating industrial machines in lots of industries, then permanently on site at BHP Billiton Olympic Dam Mine both above and underground for 5 years before moving to be a Flight Controller first at the ISS Control Centre in Belgium for some years and then Eurocom in Germany.
Eurocom at the European ISS Control Centre. I’m the voice that talks back from Earth to the Astronauts in space!
I’m employed by Space Applications Services, but I am contracted full-time to ESA’s European Astronaut Centre.
The Eurocoms are the voice that you hear talking back to space when the astronauts call Earth!
I adored Star Trek Voyager and saw the International Space Station being built in Primary School – I knew I wanted to work on that and learned the word Engineer from Star Trek – they were the people who made everything work in space so I decided that being an Engineer would be the best way to work on ISS – and it was! I’m a Mechatronic Engineer working at the European Astronaut Centre as an ISS Flight Controller.
We have to have a good technical overview of all of the experiments and also be good friends with the astronauts, which is easy because all the crew are awesome! When the astronauts call Earth, we answer, listening to the question on space-to-ground and at the same time the specialist of each experiment is listening on the Flight Director loop to give us a detailed answer to the astronaut’s question. We listen to both question and answer at the same time, summarise a 1-2 sentence reply in astronaut language and voice that back up to space. We can’t know all the experiments and rely on the experts at the ISS Science Control Centres. We choose our words very carefully to summarise the technical response back to the crew – you need to be accurate and concise.
It’s also a bit of pressure because it all has to be done immediately and everything we say can be heard by all the astronauts and the Mission controls in the world and it’s broadcast live on the internet and NASA TV! Even if you’re having a grumpy day or there is an emergency, you cannot have that show in your voice – we have to sound calm, keep operations going, keep crew safe and be confident and reassuring in all circumstances. If you ever hear a small gap between an astronaut talking and the response, it’s not a satellite delay (our communications are amazing and instant), it’s the Eurocom listening to the answer and thinking about the final wording before replying!
The European Astronaut Centre where the astronauts from Europe, USA, Russia and Japan all train in these life sized modules. Most awesome place ever to work and sometimes I help take school tours. This one was very special because it was my old school!
My Typical Day
Chatting to astronauts in space!
I sign on to console and check in with the Flight Control Team in Europe and my counterparts around the world at the other Mission Controls. We prepare the first astronaut meeting of the morning when they call down to start their day on orbit. The daytime is very busy with talking to the crew for all the back to back science experiments packed into the busy astronaut ISS schedule. Then I hand over to the afternoon shift who continue experiments and they close the 12hour workday with a similar all-hands evening meeting between all the astronauts and Mission Controls.
There’s more than just Houston like the movies, there are actually five ISS Control Centres! When astronauts call Earth they say Houston, Huntsville, Munich, Moscow or Tsukuba and the CAPCOM, PAYCOM, EUROCOM, Glavni or JCOM answers – the position is the same – we’re just called different names based on our geography.
You can see Tim’s day and the experiments and satellites and other amazing things we are doing in space on the Principia Blog. I am not a natural writer but I stretched my skills a bit and have also written some of the blog posts! http://blogs.esa.int/tim-peake/ . There is also a really good blog post about the Eurocom job at http://blogs.esa.int/iriss/2015/09/10/the-team-behind-iriss-eurocom/. Actually the CAPCOM/PAYCOM/EUROCOM/JCOM are mostly astronauts but in rare cases they are normal humans like me. Tim is also trained as a Eurocom, but he’s rather busy right now doing other things.
What I'd do with the prize money
Fly over to the winning school with lots of space goodies and spacefood to spend a day with classes doing microgravity experiments and talking about astronauts plus humanspaceflight plus working with the ISS, which is the best job on Earth!!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Geek, Traveller, Gamer
What was your favourite subject at school?
Italian. I did school in Italy as an exchange student so it was difficult over there at the beginning not speaking Italian (imagine doing homework in a language you don’t speak!) but I learnt it in a few months immersion so returning to Australia I took Advanced Italian language and it was lots of fun!
What did you want to be after you left school?
An International Space Station engineer! But I also wanted to see the entire world and took two gap years, one before I started university and one during study to have fun, work on a ship, work in Russia and travel the world. I’ve lived/worked/studied/visited friends in 75 countries so far, saving up for each trip by working myself. During high school and university I worked at McDonalds and Blockbuster and as a Receptionist then of course after University I worked as an Engineer. Sometimes I’m really lucky and work sends me on trips so it’s the best of all worlds!!!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nope. I had some trouble concentrating & adapting back culturally at home in my 2nd final year of high school after living abroad but my teachers were very patient and I got back on track for my final year to achieve the marks I needed to gain a place in Engineering at University.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I worked on a ship for a year, porting in 12 countries and sailing the Atlantic Ocean!
The “6-pack” – my favourite part of looking up when on console! We are incredibly privileged to see epic views of the Earth and space from ISS external cameras. These are a sequence of photos I took so you can see the sunrise.
Messing around with other Flight Controllers from United States and Japan. Vulcan hand signs! We talk to each other ‘on the loops’ all the time and it was even more fun to meet in person! I adore that we are from all different countries around the world but we all love space and work together epically! (is that a real word? Don’t tell your English teacher) 😉
When Scott Kelly visited for his final Eurocom briefing and astronaut training we let him talk to crew on ISS from the EAC Eurocom console just before he launched up there himself. Scott was brilliant fun to work with during his year in space.
Tim sent us a British Christmas care package!! Mince pies, Cadbury, Christmas crackers and more! It was a wonderful Christmas Eve surprise to the team on shift! These are all super traditional in Australia just like in UK and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed them until Tim sent presents. So lovely of him and the UK Space Agency!! (We had to explain Christmas crackers and Mince pies to the other Europeans) 😉 http://blogs.esa.int/tim-peake/2015/12/25/eurocom-wow-time-flies/