On November 14th, 2016, a TV crew from National Geographic Latin America visited the NASA Johnson Space Center campus in Houston with the purpose of creating the Latin-American version of the TV series “Brain Games” in regards to neuroscience and how it is applied to real life situations. The show called “Asombrosamente” or “Amazingly”, seeks to demonstrate the application of neurosciences in daily life, as well as the brain functions during stimuli such as food and flavors, movement, perception, mental training, emotions and memory.
The NatGeo team selected a few talented individuals who are high achievers and recognized in the Hispanic community from the city of Houston. Among these individuals, Leidos IS&GS employee, Dorothy Ruiz, a satellite engineer who works as a Ground Controller in Mission Control was selected to talk about how working in Mission Control as a Flight Controller exemplifies these “amazing” brain responses during space operations requiring immediate action to keep the Crew and the International Space Station safe while focusing on mission success.
Dorothy Ruiz and three other colleagues (Tom Holmes, Bill Foster, and Lawrence Moore) from the Ground Control (GC) group came up with a scenario and went through the motions of a mini simulation while the Nat Geo team was filming, to demonstrate a real mission control situation in space operations. The scenario involved a potential loss of communications between the vehicle and the ground due to a fault in an upcoming satellite while the crew is performing a critical procedure onboard the vehicle. In order to prevent this loss of communication, the GC has to save the day by acting fast and applying all the skills needed to get another satellite in a timely manner so the crew can continue on with their critical operations. At the end of the simulation, Dorothy explained on camera how the scenario relates to each brain stimuli, such as movement, perception, mental training, emotions an memory.
A real life situation such as this scenario involves immediate coordination, therefore requiring fast movements to access and monitor different tools to perceive the problem and evaluate the situation. It also involves different movements combined with emotions while communicating and reporting the situation to the team in order to transmit reassurance, trust, and a handle of the situation. An example of this is standing up in the flight control room to convey a sense of urgency to the Flight Director in regards to the situation while remaining calm and focused. In such scenarios, the GCs must provide a fast but safe solution for mission success, knowing exactly what procedures to access, and the steps to take during such a high tense situation, exercising mental training and memory.
The NatGeo team was amazed by the scenario exercised by the GC team and how well it fits the show objectives. As one can see, being a Ground Controller in Mission Control Houston is no brain game, it is truly “asombroso”; an amazing example of the leadership and values displayed during day to day mission operations. The episode will air all over Latin America sometime in the spring of 2017.