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Dave DeRenzis

picture of Dave DeRenzis

1) My title is "Operations Planning supervisor". It should be Servicing Mission Operations Planning supervisor because I am responsible for the planning of HST servicing missions, which are pretty cool things to plan for.


An HST servicing mission is like taking your car to a garage mechanic to be tuned up and fixed. The only difference is that the mechanics (astronauts and the engineers who have to stay on the earth) go to the HST (in the Shuttle Orbiter) and the car is a telescope orbiting 320 nautical miles above the earth.


My job is as follows: The Space Shuttle Orbiter services the HST in space. There has to be a "plan" that tells us here at Goddard how to prepare for the Orbiter to grapple (grab) HST and what things on HST to turn on or off. This "plan" also tells the astronauts what they are supposed to do when they try to fix the HST. I used to be responsible for writing this "plan", now I just supervise the people who make it. This plan is in two pieces. One is called the "Servicing Mission #2 Integrated Timeline" (SMIT) and the other is called the "Servicing Mission #2 Command Plan". To make these plans requires that we sit in many many meetings and working groups and listen to what all the engineer specialists say to do. So we just collect and compile all the activities and things that the engineers say to do and make the SMIT and Command Plan. These two plans or documents become sort of the Bible for HST servicing missions.

Note: See #3 below for account of famous astronaut who asked me to autograph the SMIT for him because he thought it was a work of art.


2) How did I decide on this career? When did I know I wanted to do it and how did I prepare for it.?

About nine months after I received my Bachelors degree in Astronomy, I was cleaning toilets and mopping floors at Gannon University in Erie, Pa. I was 30 years old and always wanted to work in the astronomy or aerospace field. I was persistently bothering the Lockheed college relations guy for a job and finally this time he said he had some openings for a fresh-out of college astronomy major. The job was operating/monitoring communications satellites. This sounded interesting so I accepted. They trained me and paid me good money and I had the most amazing time working and living in California. Two years later (1984) I heard about the HST program and managed to get hired. I have been here ever since.


3) What is the best thing about my job? What do I like least about it?

The best thing about my job is, I guess, interfacing with the other people who I get to work with. I was going to say the best thing was having responsibility but when I think about it, it's really the fun and challenging aspects of dealing with everybody. They almost all seem smarter than me (technically, they really are) but we all seem to be able to work together and have a good time doing it. I have worked with people who worked on the very first manned space flights and the Apollo moon missions, I sit in meetings with supersmart engineers and astronauts. I have made presentations to these very same people and felt high as a kite afterwards 'cause I was so apprehensive before hand. A famous astronaut was sitting next to me in a meeting where we were reviewing the timeline that I made and he actually asked me to autograph it for him. He must have been drinking or something ha, ha, but I was thrilled. I was at a meeting that I shouldn't have been at and John Young another famous astronaut sat next to me. I saw and heard some very interesting things that day. The actual best people to work with though are the people I work with everyday who have become my friends over the years, we have a lot of fun working together. After 14 years in aerospace I have never tired of what I do. Also the HST project, really is a most amazing accomplishment for our country. I am proud to be associated with such a great project.


The worst thing about my job is that I am technically deficient and I attribute that to my not going back to college until I was twenty seven. Somehow I had lost a lot of my ability to learn and the Astronomy curriculum was so hard and fast paced that I never really was able to learn the important stuff. But I try and make up for it by working well with others which in my opinion is essential to any profession.


4) As a kid I always liked looking up into the sky. Stars and the moon seemed to be one of the things that I felt a real connection to. In other words, that's what I automatically liked from the time I knew enough to like anything. I also liked knowing where I was in relation to everything else, so I had to find out about what was out there. I bought a cheapo $30 telescope and looked out of it everynight in my backyard.


If I were going to get into the science or astronomy field I would only do it because I liked it. If you do like it then you just follow your desires and you will do it. I would not be discouraged by the difficulty of any science or astronomy curriculum. Brains alone do not bring success.


"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. (Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent.) Genius will not. (The world is full of educated derelicts.) Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."


(Herbert Hoover)


5) I was only influenced by my personal genuine interest.


6) Things I did and things I do now:


I was sixteen in 1966. That was the start of the hippie era. I was a hippie. Most all I did from eight to twenty years old was listen to and play sports. I was in the Air Force from 20 to 24 yrs old. I hated that. I painted houses for two years and hated that. I went to college as a music major and just goofed off. They didn't even have a music major program. I also hated that. At twenty seven I finally decided to try what I always wanted to do, so I went for a degree in Astronomy, a very hard major, and no opportunity job field. Who cares, I was liking it. I am 45, never married and have had too many girlfriends. I snow ski, I flew airplanes but didn't get my license, I am an avid gardener, I go zydeco and cajun dances every chance I get and I am just now getting back into sports which I hated from 20 till 35 years old. I have three cats and an Australian Shepherd, which is by far the greatest dog on the planet. I am sure he will soon say something to me in English. I also mountain bike, play softball, golf, make candles (hippie stuff), throw frisbee, watch Seinfeld, play chess, drink too much coffee, and a few other things.


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