Q&A with Gateway: Meet Brian Johnson, Deputy for the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Systems Office
The Gateway, a multipurpose outpost orbiting the Moon and vital part of NASA’s Artemis program, is built with sound engineering and operational principles that will serve as a staging point for deep space exploration and model for future missions to Mars. As deputy for the Exploration Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Systems Office for the Gateway program, NASA Johnson Space Center-based Brian Johnson is responsible for leading day-to-day integration of exploration spacewalk development for the Gateway program, as well as providing overall leadership for other exploration spacewalk customers within the Human Landing System and International Space Station programs. By working directly with these programs, Johnson ensures his office can provide an agency solution that supports both the Artemis and space station programs.
Keep reading to learn more about Brian Johnson, below!
What is your role in the Gateway program?
The exploration EVA project is one of several integral elements of the Gateway program. My role is to lead the day-to-day integration of exploration spacewalk development for the Gateway program, as well as provide overall leadership for other exploration EVA customers, including the Human Landing System and International Space Station.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I provide leadership for the entire suite of exploration spacewalk hardware and work directly with the programs to ensure we can provide an agency solution that supports both Artemis and the space station.
What does your office do for the Gateway program?
Our office will ultimately provide Gateway a spacewalk capability to support future contingency spacewalk capability and potential need for external utilization operations.
What are you most excited to share about Gateway and what it will do for human exploration as part of the Artemis program?
Gateway is NASA’s first sustainable human exploration mission beyond low-Earth orbit, which is really exciting! Gateway represents the next extension of human spaceflight exploration and the springboard to exploration on the lunar surface and Mars.
How has your personal background influenced your work in the Gateway program?
I was fortunate to be a part of the International Space Station program here at Johnson since its inception. In my four years with the program, I helped the space station go from a preliminary design to delivery of several major elements. A few months after the launch of Node 1, I moved over to the EVA office and was a part of the team tasked to assemble the space station. My role in the EVA office was to manage our Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) fleet and ensure spacesuits were ready and available to support the multitude of spacewalks required for station assembly. Now, I find myself working the design phase of the Gateway and, with my space station and EVA experience, I can help Gateway get off the ground. From my vantage point, I am really impressed with how much our collective Johnson experience has catapulted Gateway from an idea into a design in a short timeframe. We are getting good at this!
What has been your favorite memory while working at NASA?
I have so many awesome memories! Out of all these memories, I think my favorites are being able to see space shuttle launches — specifically STS-88 — which launched Node 1, or “Unity,” to the space station. That launch was the capstone of my roughly four years in the space station program. Shortly after that, I left the space station program and joined the EVA office to do my part in completing assembly of the orbiting laboratory.
Being surrounded by such a high-performing group of people, what’s a great piece of advice you’ve learned?
Working with all these amazing people in the Gateway program is humbling. Long ago, I learned that “to lead is to serve.” We can be most beneficial when we are breaking down the barriers for others, because we are only going to succeed as a team.
In line with JSC’s DARE | UNITE | EXPLORE, how do you see yourself fitting into the vision?
My goal is to unite the capabilities and ambitions of our exploration EVA team with those of the Gateway and Human Landing System programs to enable human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. Leaving the confines of a spacecraft and performing a spacewalk is always a daring adventure, and I look forward to NASA and our partners performing many spacewalks on the Moon.
More about you:
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in suburbia Maryland, almost exactly between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
If you could temporarily live (or visit) in another part of the world, where would that be?
I’d love to live almost anywhere around the Mediterranean. I love living by the water and traveling to places with real geography (not flat).
How long have you been at JSC?
I’ve been at Johnson since 1994 (close to 27 years). I started my NASA career right out of college and joined Marshall Space Flight Center in 1991.
Describe yourself in five words:
Proactive, unselfish, innovative, determined, and humorous (at least I think I am funny).
Favorite thing(s) to do to unwind:
Card games with kids, working out, and playing ping pong with friends — a great socially distanced activity. :)
How has the pandemic shaped your work style?
I really like working with all the comforts of my home around me, but I have learned that we need to take breaks. However, I also really miss interacting with my teammates in person.
Name one thing we would be surprised to learn about you.
I am an environmentalist at heart. We need to take care of our planet and, at the same time, explore the rest of our solar system.
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.
DARE | UNITE | EXPLORE