Allison Bolinger: Spacewalk Flight Controller And Trainer

4 minutes

I'm Allison Bolinger. I'm a space walk flight controller and trainer at Johnson Space Center in Houston. I get astronauts ready to go to the International Space Station and perform all aspects of space walking.

[astronaut] Thread the wire tie on the aft side...

(Bolinger) We're focused on the International Space Station, maintaining it while it completes its mission. Meanwhile, folks within my organization and astronauts who have this space-walking experience are thinking about, "How can we improve this space suit? "How can we modify it to make it more suited for a mission on an asteroid or a mission to Mars or the moon?" So we're constantly thinking about modifying our space suit. Training takes place in the neutral buoyancy lab. One of the largest indoor pools. It's 200-feet by 100-feet, and it's 40-feet deep. This simulates space, and that's how we train astronauts to space walk on the space station. The space station is so large and can't fit in the pool, so different components are broken apart to simulate the entire space station. This suit weighs about 175 pounds. Once the crew member gets inside, a large crane will lift this whole stand up and lower it down into the water. We train them about the tools they will use during the space walk. They do a choreographed space walk where they learn about different components and how to fix them. I'm also in mission control to help choreograph the space walk when things go wrong. As experts, we can help astronauts fix the situation. The next thing to do is get inside the airlock to hook up your safety tether. The wall is lined with "the big boards." You've got big video monitors that display what the crew is doing or seeing and all the data is displayed. Then computer monitors pull up the different parameters of the space suit. The spacesuit is constantly downlinking data to the Earth.

(technician) Four, three, two...

(Bolinger) I sat in the front room for the STS-134 mission, the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, in May 2011. It was completely overwhelming 'cause you're realizing, "Wow, I'm finally here. I'm finally doing my dream job" So it was pretty cool. I went to space camp at the Kennedy Space Center. You met kids that were all very passionate about space. We did training exercises, like what I'm doing now. I'm training astronauts now, so it's neat that I experienced it as a child. For me, training the astronauts is the best of both worlds because you still get the same experiences astronauts get, but don't have to launch into space to do it. Occasionally, when they're out actually doing a space walk, they'll mention your name or say hi to Houston and specifically our EVA team. It's fun to get a shout-out from space. I definitely feel like I'm with them outside. One of my favorite sayings is on this charm: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll be among the stars." I had confidence to achieve my goals. I'm still blown away when I'm at mission control, watching crew members I trained perform space walks. I love this job. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.


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NASA spacewalk flight controller and trainer Allison Bolinger teaches astronauts how to work outside their spacecraft. In this video, Allison describes how she helps astronauts prepare for work on the International Space Station while wearing a bulky spacesuit. Part of the "Design Squad Nation" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

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