Alice Bowman - Expert Space Drone Flyer

Image Courtesy of NASA New Horizons Gallery

The image above looks like the next coming of the Dark Star? No, not really, just the heart of Pluto and its frozen. But, we are not here to talk about that but the story behind the story.

This week's installment of Highline, HuffPost's new longform journalism project, shines the spotlight on Alice Bowman, Johns Hopkins' Advanced Physics Laboratory's first ever woman Mission Operations Manager or as she's known to her team, M.O.M. 

HuffPost's Highline Executive Editor Rachel Morris goes behind the scenes with the woman responsible for flying the most advanced unmanned spacecraft in history across 3.26 billion miles to get humanity's first ever glimpse of Pluto, all from her desk at APL outside Baltimore. Being at the helm of such an ambitious operation, Bowman is proving that spaceflight is no longer a man's game. Here's a glimpse of the article(c/o Huffington Post's Katie Maguire).

Image Credits: SwRI/JHUAPL

On July 15, people all over the world watched a woman in a cubicle wait for a signal from three billion miles away. In a soft, clear voice, she confirmed that the New Horizons spacecraft had flown within 7,800 miles of Pluto and survived. In the following days, the spacecraft transmitted images that revealed for the first time what the surface of Pluto looks like. It has a smooth expanse just above its equator, some 1,000 miles wide, that resembles a bright, icy heart. It has frozen mountain ranges and spectral plains that may have only just formed. The detail of the photographs and the geological variety of Pluto exceeded all the hopes of NASA scientists. “I’m still having to remind myself to take deep breaths,” said one.

At the center of it all was Alice Bowman, the woman in the cubicle and the engineer who led the team that guided the spacecraft towards its destination. For a while on July 15, she was trending on Twitter. Some cheered her role as the first woman to oversee an operation so ambitious, one that seems to have had more women working on it than any other mission in NASA's history. Others wondered why her colleagues kept calling her Mom (it’s NASA shorthand for Mission Operations Manager). One week later, when I spoke to her, she was still stunned by all the attention. Her operation is one of brain-bending complexity, and she told me that it’s not always easy for her to translate what she does into words—at least words that most of us would understand. And she was noticeably uncomfortable discussing certain subjects, such as how the role of women in space exploration has changed since she entered the field in 1988. As she explained what it takes to move a small object through space, and everything that she’s seen along the way, what she conveyed most of all was a sense of pure wonder.

For the full article, visit HuffPost Highline  


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