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  photo of mike ciannilli

Quest Chat with Mike Ciannilli

February 25, 2004

[ Linda/NASAQuest ]
Hello, and welcome to our February 25, 2004 National Engineers Week chat with Mike Ciannilli. Questions may be placed here at any time. They will be held in a queue until the time of the webcast and will not be visible until that time. Please do not repeat your questions.

[ Linda/NASAQuest]
Remember to read Mike's bio at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/people/bios/space/ciannilli.html before attending so you can ask appropriate questions.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC ]
Hello! Welcome to the Kennedy Space Center. I am looking forward to chatting with you today and discussing any interests that you may have. As always I appreciate your interest and support for America's Space Program.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC ]
RE: What was your favorite mission?
Hi and thanks for your question. Wow that is a tough question. I would have to say that several have stood out. The first flight of Columbia in 1981, STS-1, is one that meant a great deal to me and one that I will never forget. STS-78 in June 1996 was my first launch, again Columbia, as a member of the Launch Team and means alot me me also. I will also never forget STS-107 the last launch of Columbia. However, all were special in their own way.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC ]
RE: Is there an engineering society for students?
Great to see your interest in engineering. Yes, there are many societies and organizations dedicated to engineering. A search the Internet should include most. One site in particular... http://www.tcnj.edu/~engsci/engineering_societies.htm....is really good. There is also one found at www.jets.org . As a college student I was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and was President of our Chapter for 2 terms. It was a great experience and I would definitely recommend to everyone to join one of their interests. Almost every engineering discipline has student / professional organization connected to it.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC]
RE: I am Kabid. How one can join the NASA is aerospace engineers from pakistan are allowed and when one should apply
Kabid thanks for the interest in out Space Program. Best thing to do is to pick and engineering field you enjoy, do the best that you can, work hard, then after graduation apply ( via the Internet if you would like ) to NASA. We would be happy to have you join our team here at NASA one day. Hope all is going well in Pakistan

[ Linda/NASAQuest ]
RE: I am Kabid. How one can join the NASA is aerospace engineers from pakistan are allowed and when one should apply
Hi Kabid, You can find more information on getting jobs at NASA from http://www.nasajobs.nasa.gov/

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 48 - 10:15:41 ]
RE: If you're on the launch team, what do you do when the shuttle is not flying?
Well it has been a very unique time for us this past year. The three main activities were are currrently involved in. First is to fix the problems found in the Columbia Accident Inverstigation Board's report to NASA. There are things such as the foam issue. Secondly we are taking the extra time we have to work on items that were kinda of on the back burner ( rainy day type chores ). And lastly we are processing Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour for their next missions. Personally I have been quite busy conducting Launch Countdown Simulations to keep the Launch Team sharp and ready to go when we are ready to fly again.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 51 - 10:17:34 ]
RE: Did you work on the Columbia flight last year?
It is hard to believe it has been a year already. Yes, I was in the Firing Room on the Launch Team for Columbia last year. I will never forget working all night then being so happy to see her climb into the sky the next morning, never knowing what was to happen.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 53 - 10:20:45 ]
RE: How long do engeneers have to work each day?
Hi and thanks for the question. Well that answer depends on the company and program you work for. However, typically engineers work roughly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. But in many cases, like us here at the Cape, shift work is also common. Therefore, you can find yourself working 2nd ( 3pm to 11pm ) or 3rd shifts ( 11pm to 7am ). Also sometimes you need to work the weekends. Here at the Cape were tend to work alot of different shifts and sometimes lots of extra hours.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 56 - 10:25:14 ]
RE: How safe are the space shuttles?
Hi! First it must be stated that the Space Shuttle is the most complex flying machine ever built. It also has thousands of parts that work under very rough conditions in a very risky environment. That being said, the Space Shuttle is a very safe vehicle. Its success rate is quite high for lauch vehicles. You must remember though that going into space is always going to be very risky and that it takes really courageous astronauts to take that risk and help bring us all into the future! Maybe you will be one of those explores one day!!

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 58 - 10:28:18 ]
RE: How long does it take to become an engineer?
Great!! Sounds like we may have a new engineer out there! Well. typically it takes 4 years to earn an engineering degree. If you go for your master's it may take another 1-2 years or so. However, as a side note I would say don't worry on the time that much if you have opportunites while in college. By this I mean, if you get the chance to get and internship program or Co-Op Program, by all means take it. It will make your graduation take a little longer, but it will be a very worthwhile experience in the end.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 60 - 10:31:44 ]
RE: When do you think that the shuttle will be allowed to go back into space? Is it safe?
Well, this is the million dollar question right now! At this time we believe we can do everything we need to do to fix our problems and safely fly next year. We have just set March 6, 2005 as the next launch date. However, if we find out that we need more time to safely fly, then we will take as much time as we need. Simply put, we will not fly before we are as sure as we can be that we are ready to go. I have been closely following all of our Return to Space activities and I am very confident that when the next Space Shuttle lifts off into space, we will be as safe as we can ever be.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 61 - 10:33:50 ]
RE: Do you ever want to fly on the shuttle?
Fly on the shuttle huh?? Hmmm...sounds kinda cool to me!! I think if I had the opportunity to go, I would be really excited. A few months ago I had the chance to put a Launch Suit on and practice drills at the launch pad. It was really interesing and alot of fun! How about you.....would you like to go into space?

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 63 - 10:37:06 ]
RE: Can you tell us what's involved in a Launch Countdown Simulation?
Great question....thanks. Well here is what we do. Prior to every launch we conduct a launch simulation using a math model. Think of it as a big video game. Everyone sits at their console in the Firing Room as they would on Launch Day. What I do is throw tough failures at the engineers so they have to practice solving problems and keeping the shuttle and astronauts safe. We usually start at T -20 minutes and counting and run right down to an Abort or a major problem. We do this several times during the day.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 65 - 10:42:24 ]
RE: I'm interested in the flow of information in the Firing Room during the Launch Countdown...If I'm not mistaken, the TPE sits with the SPE and GLS operator...I know that the TPE is a USA employee and the SPE is NASA, but what other than that differentiates your position from the SPE?
Wow! Sounds like you have really studied the Firing Room. That is great. As for the flow of information, actually we all pretty much hear the same information coming across the communication channels. Basically the way to think of the differences between a TPE and an SPE is this. Prior to loading the External Tank with propellant ( about 8 hours before launch ) the TPE handles the Firing Room engineering integration. After this point the SPE ( Shuttle Project Engineer ) takes over and we (TPE ) support them. We all have very similar skills.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 67 - 10:44:43 ]
RE: What made you choose engineering instead of science?
Well I kinda chose both! My degree is actually Space Science. However, my dream has always been to work on rockets. Therefore, I am a science guy by degree and an engineer by profession. In general, both professions are great and I encourage you to investigate both!

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 71 - 10:47:03 ]
RE: Are the plans to build a replacement for the shuttle?
Well, the is no plan to build another space shuttle, like was done after we lost Challenger. However, the President has proposed a really exciting new vision for America. He wants us to fly the shuttle again, finish building the Space Station, then build a new vehicle to take us back to the Moon and one day on to Mars. Maybe one day you will be part of our team helping us do just that.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 72 - 10:51:10 ]
RE: How much involvement do you have with the NTD office either during a shuttle flow or during the countdown?
Fortunately I have quite a bit of contact with the NTD ( NASA Test Director ) office. Think of them as the "symphony conductor" during countdown. They run the operational aspect of the countdown. We would resolve problems with them during the count that are of an engineering nature. During the typical flow we would most likely get involved with them as various issues arise. The NTDs are a great group of folks, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with them and learn from them!

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 74 - 10:53:46 ]
RE: What are the best engineering universities in the USA?
Wow.....another good question and another tough question at the same time! I am a little biased at the Florida Institute of Technology because that is my alma mater. However, there are a lot of great schools here and across the world for engineering. Best thing to do is take into account what kind of engineering you want to study, what financial considerations you need to make, and learn about all the things the schools have to offer you before and after graduation. Look at ALL options!

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 76 - 10:56:25 ]
RE: What were your favorite subjects in school?
Favorite subjects huh? Well definitely science is right up there for me! However, I like to learn, so most all subjects I found interesting. In college all the ones that had space applications were my favorite. The cool thing about my job now is I get to study and learn about the Space Shuttle every day!! And believe me you can never stop learning about it.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 77 - 10:58:35 ]
RE: You mentioned programs students can get involved in, like internships. Where can we find out more about those?
The best way to do that is if you are in high school, talk to your guidence counselor. If in college, talk with your professors and they should know. Also your college placement office. In addition, talk with your fellow students and even call up a bunch of companies that do the kinda of work that interests you and ask them about their programs. However, I can't stres enough how valuable interneships can be. Best of luck!!!!!

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 78 - 10:59:24 ]
RE: You mentioned programs students can get involved in, like internships. Where can we find out more about those?
One good starting point is: http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Educational.Services/NASA.Education.Programs/Student.Support/.index.html - it's a long URL - make sure to enter the whole thing. You'll find there a list of internships at NASA.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 79 - 11:00:33 ]
RE: If you didn't have your job at NASA, what other job would you like to have?
Well....if I didn't have this job huh? Well...let's see.. actually I used to be a teacher and I really enjoyed that. I guess if I didn't have this opportunity I would be working alot more again with students. That was really rewarding and fun.

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 80 - 11:01:33 ]
Mike, I want to thank you for your great answers to our questions today. You've made the world of engineering and science sound exciting!

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 81 - 11:02:06 ]
Thanks everyone for joining us today - Hope to see you online again soon!

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 82 - 11:03:03 ]
Just for some info for you all....it looks like we have decided at this point that Discovery will be the next space shuttle to fly. The launch date we are looking at now is March 6th, 2005. However, as we discussed before our only priority is to fly safe......whenever that may be is when we will.

[ MikeCiannilli/KSC - 83 - 11:05:34 ]
I want to thank you all again for a lot of excellent questions. After reading those I am confident we have alot of great new scientists and engineers in the works. I wish you all the best of luck in the school work and college careers. Maybe one day we will see you out here helping us get back the Moon and Mars. Just always do your best and you will achieve all of your dreams. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me!


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