Leadership That is Out of This World

Leadership That is Out of This World

The countdown clock is expected to resume soon for the launch of the Artemis I mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the next step in NASA’s plan to bring humans back to the moon. Overseeing the liftoff will be Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA’s first female launch director and a native of Gaffney, South Carolina.

As flight director, Blackwell-Thompson is responsible for ensuring the rocket is ready for blastoff, and she will be the one who makes the “go for launch” call. She’s been preparing for this moment for more than thirty years, since graduating from Clemson University in 1988 with a degree in computer engineering. Blackwell-Thompson started working at the Space Center shortly after graduation, first as a payload flight software engineer for the Boeing Company. She joined NASA in 2004 and was named flight director for Artemis I in 2016.


The rocket was originally scheduled to blast off at 8:33 a.m. Eastern on Monday, but a fuel leak and engine trouble forced the launch to be scrubbed. The next window for launch is Friday, September 2. Artemis I is the first full test of NASA’s Space Launch System and the uncrewed Orion spacecraft, and its mission entails a forty-two-day journey that will take Orion around the moon and back. If all goes well, the agency is planning to send astronauts to the moon in 2025 for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

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