Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mission Controller Liz


All hail Lockheed Martin's ISS Medical Program Operations Lead! My newest "employee spotlight" shines upon Liz Warren, who is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the complement of Human Research Program science operations conducted on the International Space Station.

Liz is also Lead of the on-console operations team of engineers, planners, astronaut procedure writers and science support personnel. You may have noticed by now, after all my posts about various NASA contractors, that government titles can be a bit... involved ;)

Liz Warren, ISS MCC
ISS Mission Control

I first met Liz at an event at Johnson Space Center, but even before that had seen many photographs of her, acting as a test subject in the same spacy medical experiments I enjoyed (endured?). It's always interesting to speak with people who have experienced the same test programs, and seen the protocols change throughout the years.

Liz has also gotten her share of press, having been featured in Popular Science magazine, the New York Times, and most recently, the Daily Journal, which detailed her speaking engagement at the Show Me Science Festival near St. Louis, Missouri this past summer. She is now the only Mission Controller I know who has her very own DAY, as dedicated by the Bonne Terre mayor! Must be nice!

Liz didn't mind answering their questions, and I had a few more after reading the articles, so I asked if she would answer some for my blog…

Johnson Space Center Newsletter for Life Sciences
You've been on weightless-parabola flights, and even tested exercise machines there... if given the chance to go into weightlessness in space, would you go? Think you'll be able to buy a ticket to space in our lifetimes?
Liz Warren: Absolutely. I'd go in a heartbeat! It's been a dream of mine since I was very young to be an astronaut and to perform science experiments in space. While I may not be selected as a NASA astronaut, I think that people will be taking leisure trips to space in out lifetime. Perhaps I'll be able to go to space after all! Floating is the most amazing, freeing experience and imagine that floating while gazing out the window at Earth is just breathtaking.

Have you ever used some of the things you describe in the Journal article as being available to astronauts? Rinseless shampoo, the vacuum hair-cutter, etc.? Do you play with things to understand how the astronauts use them?
Liz Warren: I have a personal philosophy that started in graduate school – I don't make someone to do something that I haven't done myself. I have tried astronaut food and I find it pretty tasty. People tend to think of the days of toothpaste tubes of pureed food. In reality, most of the food is thermostabilized, like MREs, and some of it is dehydrated.

Liz Warren - Vomit Comet
Running in zero-g aboard NASA's Vomit Comet,
tethered to treadmill with bungees!

Cont'd: Some is canned and still other foods are off the shelf (like peanut butter and granola bars). I also try a lot of the medical and human research tests that astronauts perform: balance tests, neuro-vestibular tests, functional fitness and cardiovascular tests. I was never a bed rest subject [for micro-gravity simulations], but I've been tested on just about all of the bed rest testing protocols.

You mentioned studies and experiments done on the ISS… can you list a few?
Liz Warren: All of these experiments are described in detail on NASA websites. These are a few that I support...
Sleep – examines quality and duration of sleep, plus lighting conditions on ISS.
Integrated Cardiovascular – cardiovascular de-conditioning over time in spaceflight
Reaction Self Test – examines cognitive function and reaction times
Spinal Elongation – examines lengthening of spine during spaceflight
Integrated Immune – examines immune function during spaceflight
Nutrition – examines metabolism and nutrient use during spaceflight
Pro K – examines if ratio of protein to potassium alters bone metabolism
Biophosphonates – examines if bone resorption prevention drugs work

Keep up the great work, Liz! We all know that astronauts on the ISS are safer and healthier, thanks to all your knowledge and efforts!