Thursday, February 11, 2010

Riding out the Snow Storm Inside Goddard to Carry on the Mission

Hundreds of ground crew workers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. have been working since Friday afternoon to keep buildings safe and ensure essential employees are there to support the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-130) mission and the launch and operation of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Crews continue to work very hard to make sure the Center is ready to return to normal operations once this storm is over.

Civil servants, contractors, and subcontractors are working together using hundreds of front loaders, Bobcats®, snow plows, dump trucks, and shovels to clear roads and sidewalks on Center.

The biggest challenge to handling this storm is finding a place to put all the snow, according to Eric Holmes, Goddard Facility Manager. “We hauled over 2,000 thousand truckloads of snow and dumped it behind Building 28,” said Holmes. “We’ve built ‘Mount Goddard’.”

Emergency planning began last Wednesday, February 3, when Holmes received a weather report from AccuWeather about the storm. “We made sure we had enough fuel, rock salt, and magnesium chloride,” said Holmes. “About 250 tons of rock salt was delivered to the Center on Thursday. We also made sure contractors and Government personal were prepared.”

Goddard Space Flight Center gates. Credit: NASA/Eric Holmes, Goddard Facility Manager.

Crews will live inside Building 4 for the duration of the storm. There is a full kitchen and hundreds of cots and air mattresses set up.

We were prepared to open the Center this week," says Holmes. "However, because of the surrounding county roads, Center management thought it would be safer for employees to stay home."

Space Shuttle and Solar Dynamics Observatory Mission Support

“Employees have staffed the Network Integration Center (NIC) 24 hours a day since last Friday,” says Jim Bangerter, Network Director for Human Space Flight at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Crews piles tons of snow behind building 28. Credit: NASA/Eric Holmes, Goddard Facility Manager.

Goddard provides critical communications for human spaceflight missions. The Goddard team provides data to Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center that allows them to monitor the performance of thousands of systems on the Shuttle, send flight commands and navigational instructions, relay science data, support voice communications between the astronauts and mission control along with video and live television feeds.

In addition to the Shuttle, Goddard also provides critical mission support to the Solar Dynamics Observatory through its entire mission from Building 14’s Mission Operation Center. The Center is fully staffed and ready to monitor and control the spacecraft through its initial orbits, using the orbital data provided to them by the Flight Dynamics Facility (FDF).

Building 28 parking on Saturday. Credit: NASA/Joan Dunham, Flight Dynamics Support Services (FDSS) Operations Domain Lead, a.i. solutions.

Pre-storm planning for Shuttle and SDO mission support began early last week. Contractors secured rooms at the Greenbelt Holiday Inn and Greenbelt Marriott hotels. They also made sure they had 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Employees packed extra food, water, and shovels. “Several people who did not have to work over the weekend volunteered to drive people between the hotels and Goddard during the storm,” said Melissa Blizzard, Human Space Flight Operations Center Manager. Blizzard works in the NIC. “I was amazed by how people pulled together to help one another during this storm.”

“We could not say enough about the work the ground crew is doing at Goddard,” said Joan Dunham, Flight Dynamics Support Services Operations Domain Lead with a.i. solutions, a contractor at the FDF. “Crews spent a lot of time clearing snow from parking lots and sidewalks from behind Building 28. It’s like plowing an ocean,” said Dunham, “They cleared one area and more snow fills in.”

Dunham adds that on Friday night, February 5, about a dozen dump trucks, bulldozers, and Bobcats® worked to clear the Building’s parking lot. They also kept a backup generator clear of snow. Building 28 houses the Flight Dynamics Facility and NASA Television operations. Both facilities are critical to mission operations.

Bangerterscar.jpg Jim Bangerter’s car Monday morning. Credit: NASA

Bangerter stayed in the NIC from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Bangerter lives in Annapolis, Md. and didn’t want to take a chance on the roads. He slept on a couch in the Mission Management Area. “It was kind of like the old days, before some our operations were moved to White Sands, NM a few years ago,” said Bangerter. “We used to camp out at Goddard during storms like this.”

NASA Goddard contractors did a great job planning for this storm. “Nobody missed a shift,” Bangerter said. “Everyone was able to focus on the Space Shuttle launch. I am deeply grateful for those who put themselves in harm’s way to make sure our crews were able to get to work safely.”

Friday and Saturday night snow removal crews made it possible to access the Building. There were several cars in the parking lot and crews cleared snow around everyone’s cars. Crews helped Bangerter dig his car out of the snow Monday morning.

Flight Dynamics Facility Staff inside building 28. Credit: NASA/Joan Dunham Flight Dynamics Support Services (FDSS) Operations Domain Lead, a.i. solutions.

“The streets and sidewalks inside Goddard are pretty good compared to the streets outside Goddard,” said Melissa Blizzard. “Crews are plowing continuously.”

Many mission support personal were able to take a break after the Space Shuttle launch. Several dozen, however, were right back at Goddard for the Solar Dynamics Observatory launch.

Meanwhile, ground crews continue to clear snow from sidewalks and roads around Goddard. They will be working through the storm until Goddard is able to open again. “We are a very big team here,” said Holmes. “Everyone is goal-oriented here. We recognize we are part of history.”

For more information visit

No comments: