Ginger Kerrick celebrates 20 years at JSC

Ginger Kerrick, International Space Station flight director
Ginger Kerrick, International Space Station flight director
On May 19, Ginger Kerrick celebrates two decades at Johnson Space Center. If you know Kerrick, you know she’s the type of person who is always in motion and striving to make a difference. As an International Space Station flight director, she is a role model for many, and in more ways than one.

Kerrick, was honored last year as one of the “Women on the Move” by the Texas Executive Women (TEW), an organization of professional female executives. Kerrick said she was nominated by Peggy Whitson, Chief of the Astronaut Office and last year’s recipient. Each year, TEW recognizes 10 women for their exceptional contributions to business and community service.

With a passion for inspiring the younger generation, Kerrick saw this award recognition as a path toward more “opportunities to reach a broader spectrum of kids and encourage them.” She also expressed feeling intrigued by the diversity of careers of her fellow nominees, which included “nun, district attorney, lawyers and someone who runs the ballet.”

“And I thought, ‘Wow, I’m just a little old NASA engineer,’” Kerrick said. “I was very honored, and it didn’t hit me until I had met the other individuals and started reading about them.”

How she became a flight director

Kerrick originally had her sights set on exploring past the skies.“My original goal was to become an astronaut,” Kerrick said. “However, I was medically disqualified during the interview process in 1995.”

Soon she discovered that exploring new frontiers isn’t only for astronauts. When one door closed for Kerrick, another one opened that led her toward another career path with the Mission Operations Directorate. After spending some time as an ISS life support systems instructor, she was given an opportunity to work in a new position called Russian Training Integration Instructor that integrated not only the life support systems but all other space station systems.

Click for larger imager
Kerrick is on the job in Mission Control.
“During that time I had a unique opportunity to attend the majority of the Expedition 1 crew’s training and spend a significant amount of time in the flight hardware – Node 1, Lab, Service Module, FGB,” Kerrick said. “After Expedition 1 flew, because of that experience, I was offered an opportunity to be the first non-astronaut Capcom. It was there, sitting beside the Flight Director for four years, that I realized that I wanted to be a flight director.”

“As a flight director, I really enjoy what I’m doing now,” Kerrick said. “I am 7 years old in flight director years, and I kind of want to hang out here and help the team in the post-shuttle era.”

Kerrick was recently named Assistant to the Chief for ISS in the Flight Director’s Office.

What she enjoys most about her job

Kerrick greatly enjoys having the opportunity to work with a skilled and committed group of individuals. Being surrounded by “that kind of positivity and can-do attitude” is what she enjoys most. She also enjoys mentoring the Co-op students and doing what she can to inspire people.

“I made a transition when I turned 40. I’m no longer in the new crop of kids,” Kerrick said. “I like to take the time to develop the new folks who are coming on and encourage them to stay with NASA and broaden their horizons. I have had so many great mentors throughout my career that I could probably mentor 100 people and still never pay back the few individuals who put up with me. But I get the most enjoyment out of helping others.”

What does a lead flight director do outside of work

Kerrick volunteers almost every Saturday either at a local dog shelter or with a rescue organization. She works closely with local animal shelters and groups participating in adoption events or helping hands-on at the shelters. Kerrick has two dogs of her own that she adopted from a local shelter.

A space shuttle cake made by Kerrick to commemorate the Space Shuttle Program.
A space shuttle cake made by Kerrick to commemorate the Space Shuttle Program.
“I get the Co-ops involved, the Co-ops who like to do community service,” Kerrick said. “A lot of them have affiliated themselves with my rescue org, so they come out with me. And they think it’s funny that this ‘big flight director’ who’s all decked out in mission control can roll around with the dogs and get all slobbered on.”

Kerrick is also an avid runner and occasionally participates in marathons. And … that’s not all. Cake art is yet another of her talents. She has been known to contribute themed cakes to work events, such as when she made a space shuttle cake to commemorate the Space Shuttle Program. She once made a cake in the shape of the solar alpha rotary joint in light of STS-126, when astronauts repaired one of the joints on board the space station.

Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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Updated: 05/10/2012