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Behind the ScenesMeet the People

IMAGE: Mike Kearney
Mike Kearney is the assistant to the director of the Ground Systems Department in the Payload Operations Center.

Mike Kearney,
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Managing the science activities makes the job of coordinating International Space Station research a critical one

Nov. 30, 2001 - A Lexington, Ky., native is playing an important role in the worldwide science operations for the International Space Station.

Mike Kearney is a member of the team that coordinates Space Station science research from the Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Payload Operations Center is the science command post for the Space Station - the most ambitious research endeavor ever undertaken.

Kearney is the assistant to the director of the Ground Systems Department in the Payload Operations Center. His team works with ground controllers and scientists to develop the computer and communications systems so they can monitor and control experiments on the Space Station.

Long before he arrived at the forefront of helping with scientific experiments in space, Kearney was a photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader from 1967-1968, just after graduating from Lexington Catholic High School. After submarine service in the Navy, he held the same position at the newspaper from 1975-1978.

Kearney is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael W. Kearney, Jr., of Lexington.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor's in electrical engineering in 1978, Kearney worked for two years on the Space Shuttle launch complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. He then moved to Houston to work at the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

After 13 years in Mission Control, Kearney worked in the International Space Station Program Office in Houston for five years. It was during his time at Mission Control that he became involved in working with Space Station ground systems and also helping develop relationships with control centers among the Station's international partners.

He moved to Huntsville almost three years ago to work in the Marshall Center's Payload Operations Center.

Managing the science activities - as well as the time and space required to accommodate experiments and programs from a host of private, commercial, industry and government agencies worldwide - makes the job of coordinating Space Station research a critical one.

"NASA has the job of leading all the international agencies that collaborate in this program," Kearney said. "In my team, I am the focal point for that international coordination. In this environment, every country is trying to perform science, increase results and reduce cost. It keeps things interesting."

The Payload Operations Center provides around-the-clock science research aboard the Space Station.

The facility is housed in a section of the Huntsville Operations Support Center - a historic complex that provided engineering support for Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle launches, as well as Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory operations. The complex also housed the Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center from which more than 25 Shuttle-based science missions were controlled.

All text and photos for this story were provided by Marshall Space Flight Center.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/23/2003
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