RoundupReads Q&A with Gateway: Meet Dr. Jon B. Olansen

Q&A with Gateway: Meet Dr. Jon B. Olansen


This is the first in a series of profiles featuring the stellar Gateway team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

With the Artemis program, NASA will land the next man and first woman on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable presence around the Moon with Gateway. Johnson’s very own Dr. Jon Olansen is responsible for the production of Gateway’s habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) module. It will be the initial crew cabin for astronauts visiting the Gateway and provide basic life-support needs for the visiting astronauts after they arrive in Orion and prepare for their trip to the lunar surface. HALO is one of the critical elements of Gateway, which will be launched together with the power and propulsion element. 

Let’s learn more about Jon!

What is your role in the Gateway program?

I am the Gateway production manager and HALO project manager.

What are you excited to share about Gateway and what it will do for human exploration as part of the Artemis program?

Gateway is one piece of the overarching Artemis architecture, where each piece is necessary to create a sustained presence for human lunar exploration. It is definitely exciting to lean on our experience base to help design and develop key components of that architecture. Even more so, it’s personally exciting to be a part of a passionate, dedicated, and supremely competent team that makes it fun to go to work every day — even virtually!

How has your own personal background influenced your work on Gateway?

Having had the opportunity to lead full-scale development projects in the past, such as Morpheus and the Orion Ascent Abort-2 Crew Module, has allowed us to experiment with lean development methodologies and provided hands-on experience that directly informs our HALO module development.

Being surrounded by such a high-performing group of people, what’s a great piece of advice you’ve learned?

The learning on this job is non-stop and, having led several different types of teams in the past, one piece of advice that stands out to me is summarized by this saying: “Don’t focus on building your empire; focus on building your legacy.” The intent is to not seek to garner importance by thinking a team works for their manager, but rather for the leader to work on behalf of their employees. Then, groom them to be leaders in their own right, and those new leaders become one’s legacy.

Now, more about you. Where did you grow up?

My father served in the U.S. Air Force, so we moved more than 10 times even before I started college. I was born in Louisiana, but only lived there for six weeks.

How long have you been at Johnson?

I started at Johnson in April of 1989 as a Rockwell Space Operations Company employee. Hard to believe it’s been over 31 years, with one stint up at NASA Headquarters along the way.

Describe yourself in five words.

Dad, servant leader, fair-minded, appreciative, fortunate.

Favorite thing(s) to do to unwind.

Travel, happy hours, moving to the couch to work at night, camp gladiator, floating in the pool on a sunny day.

When this pandemic is over, what can’t you wait to do?

Simply get back to seeing my children and extended family on a regular basis.

What is one thing you like about teleworking?

No commute!

Tell us a fun fact about you.

When my father turned 80 last year, we went skydiving for his birthday. He was an F100 pilot who flew for years, including Vietnam, yet had never jumped out of an airplane. As a matter of fact, he had received a Silver Star for valor in Vietnam, and I was able to sneak the medal from home with my mother’s help and have it flown on STS-71, the first Shuttle-Mir docking, for which I was the lead Maintenance, Mechanical, Arm and Crew Systems flight controller. Presenting that back to him was quite humbling.

At Johnson, we are laser-focused on the next: going forward to our lunar neighbor to build outposts in uncharted territory while revolutionizing the strategies and technologies that will eventually open up the universe. The Gateway is a critical component of the Artemis program and embodies Johnson's Dare Unite Explore vision: We dare to expand frontiers. We unite with our partners to complete bold missions. We explore space to benefit humanity.


Dr. Jon B. Olansen, Gateway production manager and HALO project manager. Image courtesy of Jon Olansen.