NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Jack L. Warren
Interviewed by Sandra Johnson
Houston, Texas – 20 August 2008
Today is August 20th, 2008. This interview with Jack Warren is a continuation
of his first interview on August 12th, 2008, and is being conducted
for the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. The interviewer is
Sandra Johnson, assisted by Rebecca Hackler. I want to thank you again,
Mr. Warren, for joining us today to continue this interview. I want
to start today by talking about your work with space-flown hardware.
During the ’80s, along with those early [Space] Shuttle flights,
there was a concern for space debris, and it prompted some studies on
possible damage to some of the spacecraft. How did you become involved
in those studies?
Warren: At that
time, I was classified as a systems specialist, and we had plenty of
techs [technicians] doing lunar work. I had already completed extensive
work using a microscope, and this project involved using a standard
microscope, so I was asked to initiate the beginning of these studies.
We got involved with exposed hardware that was actually at [NASA] Goddard
[Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland]. They were looking at some
louvers that came off Solar Max [Solar Maximum satellite], and they
noticed there were multiple impacts, and decided to study them. We set
up a lab [laboratory], and most of the work was done in a fairly clean
area using a standard microscope. We were scanning each louver one at
a time, and then we would core out the impacts. We didn’t perform
the scientific work; the core samples were sent on to other labs to
be studied by an electron microscope.
This was the beginning of the space-exposed hardware studies. We also
knew that we had a spacecraft that was due to return soon. It was supposed
to be in space for one year, but it ended up being there for over five
years. It was named LDEF, and it was the Long Duration Exposure Facility
where the United States stored different types of materials, tape, and
lenses. It was sent into space to determine what long term exposure
in a low-Earth orbit would have on these different types of materials.
The satellite was brought back to Florida [NASA Kennedy Space Center],
and we went there to meet with several LDEF investigators for three
to four months. I was there for six weeks helping process the satellite
material. When we received our part of the hardware at JSC, it was turned
over to me to scan and document, looking for any crater size impacts
greater than 45 microns. It actually started out lower than this, but
there was so much material that it would have taken too long to get
the data out. Anything less than 45 microns was not documented.
I started with an aluminum plate, making one scan across the plate.
The scan was the width of six millimeters and the plate was about two
feet wide. After we made two scans, we had over 400 impacts on this
plate, and that’s when we decided to scan 45 microns and higher.
We had pure gold plates, aluminum plates and insulation material. The
spacecraft carrying these particular plates was the size of a bus and
cylindrical in shape. The shape required that we collect experimental
materials from both ends as well as around the cylinder [middle] of
This satellite had one end pointed toward Earth, and the other was pointed
out into outer space. It did not rotate and it was traveling at a high
rate of speed. It was imperative that we determine where the impacts
were coming from as well as their direction. Of course, since it was
traveling forward, the leading edge would get more hits than the trailing
edge. Scientists were able to calculate approximately which direction
the material was coming from and then design future satellites to protect
them from projectiles that were speeding through space.
After LDEF, we received material from EURECA [European Retrievable Carrier].
We had a scientist from Japan that joined in with the material study,
and we worked with him for about six months. The next material came
in from the Palapa [satellite]. The material was from an [Indonesian]
satellite. Russians brought in the blanket from the satellite after
one of their missions. I worked with them approximately six months scanning
The next material that came in was two different plates from the [Russian
Mir] Space Station. We extended it out quite a ways away from the Space
Station, and it just sat there and collected impacts from different
directions. The material used to collect impacts was called Aerogel
which we later used for the Stardust program. It is an amazing low-density
material which is made up of glass flakes which are grown from several
different gases under pressure. There were approximately 48 plates sized
six-by-six [inches] and half to three-quarters of an inch thick.
Aerogel slowed down the space debris, unlike most materials used to
collect impacts. When micrometeorites or space debris impact something,
they’re traveling at such a high rate of speed that they compress
and burn up. When they reach a certain temperature, they turn to gas,
and it usually melts the material or puts a hole wherever the impact
occurred on. The Aerogel would actually slow it down, and you would
have a particle at the end of the track. So this was good research with
Johnson: It sounds
like what you’re talking about is the Mir Environmental Effects
Payload, the MEEP, the first time the Aerogel was used off of the Mir
Space Station. Does that ring a bell?
Warren: I believe
it did come off of Mir.
Johnson: Was that
the first time that they’d actually put something out there specifically
to collect the particles? Like you were talking about the Palapa and
the EURECA—those were just impacts?
Warren: Those were
impacts on either equipment that they had removed and replaced or insulation
blankets that kept the spacecraft cool. But this project with Aerogel
was to collect samples because we had been testing the Aerogel here
at JSC and other places, shooting different types of material at six
kilometers per second into different types of material. Aerogel continued
to slow it down and left particles along the track and at the end of
the track. It worked and it was truly an exciting time for the collection
of space debris. Now other NASA locations could have been trying other
stuff that I was not aware of.
Johnson: On those
earlier projects, did you actually collect any substances? Or was it
only the impacts that you saw?
Warren: Like I
said, I was responsible for scanning, coring and sending it out to scientists.
If there was any substance, it was minimal. Most of the impacts decompressed
so quickly that they turned to gas and did not leave anything there
for us to pick up with the Electron Microscope studies. But yes, there
was slight material left from some impacts.
Johnson: You were
talking about how many you were finding on the LDEF. Was that a surprise
to people that that many impacts could be seen?
Warren: I think
it threw off their calculations to formulas that had been derived and
they had to be redone. After the recalculations of scientific data,
I think they had a better idea of what was coming in and from what directions,
most was from material that we have put up in orbit [satellites, rockets,
Johnson: It seems
like an awful lot of impacts.
Warren: Well, that
could have been the leading edge that we saw, but we realized that when
we started on this one particular plate that we were trying to document
all impacts. We could get craters all the way down to 20-microns in
size with the eyepieces and the X factor that we were using. This is
a magnification that we decided to use, and we could see 20-micron impacts
Johnson: Then you
mentioned the Aerogel—if you want to go on and talk about that
with the Stardust Program and how that was used.
as I previously stated, was used with Stardust which was the next mission.
Aerogel was used on the Mir. [MEEP was deployed on the Mir/Shuttle docking
module during STS-76 and retrieved during STS-86.] The MIR experiment
went so well that several scientists decided to use it on a program
called Stardust. This mission stayed in outer space for seven-years.
It was launched before Genesis [Mission, Search for Origins], but it
took a long time to get it lined up with a comet that was coming through
our solar system. They position our experiment to be in an orbit that
when the comet came by it would go past and then we would go through
the tail of the comet and collect come of the material that was coming
We retrieved the satellite sample in January, 2006. The satellite spacecraft
was parachuted in. It came in through the Earth’s atmosphere at
the highest rate of speed that any satellite or spacecraft had come
in before. The heat shield worked fine, the parachute opened when it
was supposed to, and it floated to Earth. The parachute had a couple
of beacons on it to send out a signal for easier retrieval. Even with
the helicopter above it, we could see the parachute, but not the satellite.
When they finally landed to pick up the parachute, the spacecraft was
Even though this project started in 2006, we’re still working
on processing the data; a lot here to study. We presently have four
people working to get samples out to principle investigators all over
the world. The Aerogel proved again that you can slow particles down
and they wouldn’t burn up; leaving something to document and study
at the end. We had two panels back to back: one that was flown towards
the comet, and the second panel that was attached to the back of it
being impacted with interstellar dust. We’re pulling out the first
particle today that penetrated 110 microns. Until today, the most penetration
was 20 to 30 microns. It’s coming out with the Aerogel keystone.
We call them keystones when we go in with a glass needle and cut out
something that looks like a doorstop. It’s a triangular piece,
three-dimensional. Once you get it cut, a microfork is used to pull
it out, and then the keystone is so small that you can turn it around
and take pictures of the track itself. Next, the keystone will be sent
off first to a synchrotron and they can collect data without harming
the sample. Later, the sample will be taken out of the Aerogel and most
likely put in epoxy and microtomed where we can get maybe 20 or 30 samples
from that two-micron sample of material to begin the study.
We have two scientists preparing keystones, and another person that
is taking the particles out of the keystone or the craters and allocating
them to different scientists for study. There is only one person doing
the microtoming. Presently, I am photographing and entering data on
the cells. We had 135 individual cells on each panel or tray, whichever
you want to call it. We have four different levels of photography. Level
one is using the camera for literal picture and documentation. Level
two is preparing a mosaic, taking 20 to 40 pictures using a microscope
system and a computer to create the mosaic. Level three is where you
take a removed cell from the tray and do photography at different angles
and lighting, to get a better understanding of what you have collected.
This documentation must be followed in order to track where the pieces
of the particles are located. Lastly, each track is photographed from
an angle to get particle size, entry hole size, and then given a classification
as to each type of impact.
Johnson: Are those
photographs part of the Stardust@Home project?
Warren: The Stardust@Home
project is really interesting. That’s the interstellar side where
you have 135 Aerogel pieces. We can only do this in sections and right
now we’re doing the top half because a lab table would have to
be larger the lab we are currently processing in. A video camera is
placed on top of the microscope; coordinates are entered for the X,
Y, and Z data into the computer while a high magnification movie is
being photographed between 45 to 50 frames. There’s over 2,000
of these movies from just one cell. It takes 16 to 18 hours to prepare
and process one cell. If the lighting is not exactly right, it must
be redone. It is tedious but rewarding work.
After we make the movies, they are sent to the University of California,
Berkeley, where the information is downloaded, formatted, and placed
on-line. Berkeley submits the studies and solicits help from the public
to look at these movies to locate tracks in the cell.
Originally, the calculations showed that we may have 10 to 30 impacts
on the whole tray of the 135 pieces of Aerogel. However, just in the
top section alone, we’ve already found more than 30, so this is
great! You’re talking about a large area, so you can look at the
Aerogel and look at over 2,000 movies just for one piece and maybe never
see anything. Then you can go to the next piece, and it may have three
or four impacts on it. They’re really hard to see, and it takes
a keen eye to catch it, so it does have the public interest. The movies
are now being produced by Berkeley. It used to be done from here at
JSC, so transferring this work to their documentation has helped us
a lot. We just get the tray out, zero it in for them, and now they’re
doing all the work from California [over the internet]. We’ve
pulled approximately 15 keystones from the interstellar side of the
tray. I’m not sure as to the exact count as to the number of Aerogel
cells that have been completed with movie documentation.
Johnson: Was the
lab constructed specifically for Stardust?
Warren: Yes, we
did a demolition of three different rooms here in Building 31 at JSC
and re-ran all the facility lines while stripping everything out of
the room. We used an epoxy paint on the walls, put in a new floor, re-ran
all the AC [air conditioning] ducts, and insulated and painted, while
trying to keep the contamination down. We had a Class 100 cleaning room
installed inside the area that was prepared specifically for the Stardust
Lab. Air is filtered going into the prepared area and the clean room
pulls that filtered air in and makes it meet Classification 100 facility.
We do all the work in the Class 100 room to cut down on the contamination
that might occur. It is imperative that the samples are not contaminated.
The interstellar tray is actually worked on in the Cosmic Dust Lab.
The interstellar tray requires a Class 100 tunnel. Instead of having
a vertical flow, the flow is horizontal. The Cosmic Dust Lab was shut
down in order to process the interstellar tray from the Stardust mission.
After eight months of using the lab for Stardust, we turn it back around
to a Cosmic Dust Study Lab. We needed to process the Cosmic Dust flags
and this process takes approximately four months to complete. After
completion, we will turn the lab around again for Stardust.
In the Cosmic Dust Lab, a general observation of each Cosmic Dust flag
is completed and we have approximately 10 curatorial orders to process.
Particles are sent to scientists for further study. Last year ,
I processed and sent out over 325 samples to different PIs [principal
investigators] which was completed in a three to four month range. The
reason for shutting down and switching labs is so that each mission
gets it own priority and there will be no cross-contamination on the
Johnson: I was
wondering if you could talk for a minute about the [meteorite lab] and
your involvement in that group.
Warren: I don’t
recall the exact date it was established, but I do remember it was after
the new 31N Building, which is dedicated to the lunar samples. So that
left us a complete lab downstairs, and they started up our meteorite
lab. We have scientists from all over the USA that travel to McMurdo
[Station], which is located in the Antarctic [South Pole]. This group
of scientists and data collectors are looking specifically for meteorites.
They usually leave after Thanksgiving and do not return until February
or March. I can’t tell you exactly how long they’re on the
ice, but it takes them a couple of days to get there, then they attend
safety training for several days. They must then check out their equipment,
get it loaded, and are flown to their destination and unloaded on the
ice. They set up one tent and start one gas stove. Air transportation
leaves them and they’re isolated except for a satellite telephone
After spending the rest of the day getting all the tents assembled,
a plan is made to search for samples. Since the terrain is ice and the
snow is so white, if something dark is seen on the ice, it’s most
likely going to be a meteorite. Over the years they have found as few
as 200, and as many as 2,000 meteorites in a season. The samples are
shipped back frozen and after we receive them, each one is inventoried
and placed in a freezer. They also have data logs from the researchers
at McMurdo. After they are selected for study, they are photographed,
given a number, and placed in a Teflon bag. The meteorites are then
rechecked and re-numbered to fit our [JSC] data system. Each one is
photographed, a piece is taken off, a potted butt is done, and thin
sections studied to figure out what type they are. The remainder of
it is stored, and they are shipped as soon as we can get them out to
the Smithsonian [Institution, Washington, D.C.].
As far as my work with the Meteorite Lab, it was mainly facility work,
making sure that all the cabinets are hooked up correctly, and they
have the appropriate safety relief valves, GN2 coming in that meets
spec [specifications], and that the cabinets are monitored, also having
to meet specifications. Researchers find a rock every now and then that
they can’t break, and they bring me in to either break it or saw
it. We use a stainless-steel blade with a diamond-impregnated cutting
surface and they’re cut dry. That’s about all the involvement
I’m in as far as the MET [Meteorite] lab.
Johnson: When you
talk about how they bring you in to break it, how would you break it
if you didn’t saw it? How do you do that?
Warren: There is
a platform for the smaller rocks that has a top chisel knife that you
can rotate with the handle down until it makes contact, and then you’ve
got about two feet of leverage to put pressure on it. Sometimes you
get enough pressure to chip off a piece. Otherwise, you take a hammer
and a chisel and you beat the “living daylights” out of
it. Some of these have a lot of metal in them, and they just don’t
break, so if they really want a piece off of it and it looks interesting,
then they will saw it, taking a slab off of the sample. Actually, they’ll
take an end off, cut a four-millimeter to six-millimeter slab, and from
that piece they can get anything they want because it’s thin enough
Johnson: You mentioned
Genesis. Do you want to go ahead and talk about that project?
required us to look for several rooms that we could demo [demolish]
and clean up and revamp as far as water supplies, electrical supplies
and AC supplies. Since you’re talking about atom-size material
that we were bringing back, everything had to be set up for another
clean room to be installed. This particular clean room was going to
be a Class 10 instead of a Class 100. It’s the only one here at
Class 10 means that in one cubic foot of air, you’re going to
have 10 or less particles at .5 microns, you count all the way down
to .3 microns, and you’re only allowed 300 of those. This facility
is very small, but highly filtered. In fact, in the assembly part of
the lab, we had to wear rubber suits including a hood and you had a
battery-powered filter sucking out air. By sucking air out of your suit
and filtering it before it is returned to the room, it is pulling air
in around your face. This is the air that we were breathing. This was
done to keep contamination off of the spacecraft.
The Class 10 rooms, one for assembly and the other for cleaning, were
divided a window pass-through and glass wall. The first was to start
the disassembly of the spacecraft. During this process we started the
cleaning of all the pieces that were coming off. The whole spacecraft
was cleaned, piece by piece. We used a soap and water wash, a cascade
rinse, a spray rinse and an alcohol spray rinse, and finally a drying
cycle. Samples were taken after each cleaning to check for contamination.
With the smaller pieces, I would take one sample out of 10 to check
for contamination using a particle count method, and if it passed, it
was bagged and sent to the assembly room.
This sample water and the final rinse were 18.24 megaohm water, which
means that it is not common water. It contains nothing but hydrogen
and oxygen and some stuff, but at parts per billion. You can actually
put an electrical charge in it and it won’t pass from one side
to the other. We have removed the sulfur and iron and everything else
out of it. The water is looking for material. I like to refer to it
as being “hungry.” It’ll actually etch surfaces. It
can only be stored on plastic material, and it must still be watched
because it will etch almost every surface.
Ultrapure water is the liquid that chip factories use to clean their
silicon wafers. Ultrapure water is really something! You wouldn’t
think that water could disintegrate certain substances but on one occasion,
during a safety sim [simulation], we had to figure out a timeline of
how long it would take us to disassemble the whole spacecraft, clean
it, and then reassemble it. In the simulation, they actually gave me
the shims from one of the trays. There were four trays that had to be
deployed in and out of the spacecraft. As different occurrences happen
on the Sun, one tray may be brought back in as another tray was deployed
out. If they were having a solar flare, and didn’t want to contaminate
the main tray, they would designate one tray for solar flares and see
if that made a difference with the samples coming off of the Sun.
These trays had to line up perfectly, so they used shims to align them
correctly. They were supposed to be made out of stainless steel, and
they gave me six shims from one tray. I cleaned them, and I went through
the cleaning procedure just like I had previously done, and all the
times were right and everything was done per procedure, and I gave them
back after placing them in a clean bag. They came back four hours later
and said, “We’re missing one shim.” I said, “No,
what you gave me is what I cleaned, and that’s what you got back.”
“No, you’re missing one shim.” So I went back, and
I looked in the tank, and it wasn’t there. I looked in my records,
and it said I had six shims, and my records also showed that I gave
them back six shims. I said, “Go back and check. Either you didn’t
give me enough or what.” They had in their QA [quality assessment]
data the size of each shim, the thickness, and it showed six, and it
showed the sizes. I let them know that the shims they gave me must not
have been stainless steel no matter how “nice and shiny”
they were. It turns out that they were half the size of what they were
supposed to be and that told them that the shims they gave me were not
stainless steel, that they were made out of a nice pretty shiny metal,
but not stainless steel, because the ultrapure water “ate”
The QA department got all over JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
California] because they had used something besides stainless steel.
Then they got the right stuff, re-measured it, and when they gave me
the stainless steel shims, I cleaned them and gave it back to QA again.
The Genesis simulations started around 2002. We got samples back in
2004. Genesis was launched after Stardust. Like I said, it came back
in 2004. It crash landed in the flat terrain of Utah. It was supposed
to have a parachute open up, a helicopter was there to grab it in mid-air
and then set it down softly. Since the parachute did not open for them
to catch it, the Genesis samples came into the Earth’s atmosphere
and hit the surface out at the Utah Salt Lake [desert] at over 200 miles
per hour, and the impact breached the capsule. However, as of about
three weeks ago, there’s been calculations made that we retrieved
approximately 85 percent of the samples that were inside the capsule.
They are not in the original large sizes, but we were going to have
to cut the wafers up to give to the PI’s.
Our problem is that we’re trying to determine whether any of these
pieces got contaminated because of the salt air and the container being
breached. Since you’re talking about angstrom-sized particles
that embedded approximately 150 to 400 angstroms into the material,
it’s fairly close to the surface. We’re cleaning the contamination
off while trying not to disturb the samples that are embedded in the
We’re getting better and better at this. They’ve retrieved
three or four main samples including the concentrator, the aluminum
kidney, the gold plate that were still whole and not broken up. One
hundred per cent of the material impacted Earth but 15 per cent of the
materials collected in silicon wafers were reduced to powder due to
When the Genesis samples were received at JSC, I asked to be taken off
that mission to work on Stardust, since I had been an integral part
with setting up the lab and selecting contractors to do the work, being
a part of it from beginning to end. I was selected to serve on the spacecraft
receiving team going back out to Utah for Stardust retrieval and decided
to spend 100 percent of my time on the Stardust project.
I think that covers everything, except to revisit the information on
the Cosmic Dust Lab. This was a project which started up around 1990
with a scientist named Don [Dr. Donald E.] Brownlee in the state of
Washington [University of Washington, Seattle]. He was collecting all
types of meteorite materials in different ways. He had some collectors
that were attached on the wingtips of a U-2 Spy Craft. He got NASA involved,
and we built a room here at JSC, which, like I said, was a Class 100
tunnel instead of a regular Class 100, which is vertical. The size of
these particles were usually from one micron and up, but since the one-
and two-microns are very hard to see, I usually start around five to
fifteen microns for “picking.” Of course, you’re going
to get some in the 25 micron size. The largest I’ve seen is 75
microns, and it was a metal sphere.
The room is required to be Class 100, and everything must be cleaned
and then ultracleaned before it is shipped out or stored. If this particular
type of cleaning process does not occur, there would be so much contamination
that a researcher wouldn’t be able to find the particles. We’re
presently flying flags that at the most are two and a half by four inches.
There are scientific calculations that Earth grows by 10 tons a day,
and these particles come in and hit the atmosphere, slow down, and then
gradually fall down through our atmosphere to Earth. Scientific calculations
show that we’re collecting one to two particles per hour of flight
time at 60,000 feet in the upper atmosphere.
We were collecting good data from these collectors and so we decided
to design something bigger. We went to nine-inch collector plates. They
are flown side by side, sandwiched together; they then open up giving
you an area 18 inches across. We have calculated that for each hour
of flight time with the larger collectors that we are now collecting
14 to 20 particles per hour. Since the beginning of this project, the
U-2 aircraft has been retired or redesigned, and they are now called
ER-2s for government work and TR-2s for military-type work. They fly
higher and longer and give the pilots more room in the cockpit as well
as being able to fly more instruments than the U-2.
They presently have two ER-2s at Edwards Air Force Base [California].
I believe it’s called [NASA] Dryden [Flight Research Center, Edwards,
California]. Before that, they were at [NASA] Ames [Research Center,
Moffett Field, California]. There are also two aircraft at Ellington
[Field] here in Houston. They are WB-57, with a pylon for each wing,
and we fly four at a time on each pylon. At this time, I’m only
flying two flags on each pylon due to the cost of the material to make
these flags and the coffins to hold them. So we put one on each side
of each pylon, giving us four collectors. This particular aircraft is
mainly doing crop studies, mapping and some DoD [Department of Defense]
This is an ongoing project. The areas where we usually attached to the
wings had super pods installed, and there was very little time for us
to collect on this aircraft for about two years. But this year ,
we’re going to start getting continuous sample times. We have
had a very good year  with the ER-2s out of California and then
the WB-57s at Ellington [Houston].
The CDL [Cosmic Dust Lab] is only open three to six months a year, and
then Stardust takes it for eight to twelve, and then it gets turned
back over to Cosmic Dust just to log in the samples and send out materials.
The reason we’re getting material processed and sent out of Cosmic
Dust is that we’ve been flying every year around June, when the
Earth passes through a comet cloud. The gravitational force pulls it
in and what we’re finding scientifically from this collection
of samples is that they’re matching up with many of the samples
that Stardust brought back. It’s showing up as being the same
material. This makes my collection a lot more valuable.
This year , we have also found and classified a new mineral that
was collected on cosmic dust flags three years ago. Dr. Keiko Nakamura
is the scientist at JSC that does the microtoming and also works with
samples from cosmic dust. She is nationally recognized as the one who
analyzed and determined that this in fact was a new mineral. It was
named Brownleeite [after Dr. Don Brownlee who was previously mentioned]
approximately three months ago. The CDL lab has gained much more respect
because of Stardust and the discovery and designation of this mineral.
Space-exposed hardware is an off-and-on project. Presently, we have
the capsule out with the top and bottom off, exposed in the room, and
last week we were photographing it. Because this particular canister
will be sent to and displayed in the Smithsonian, we’re trying
to get as much photography as we can before it goes out. We’re
looking for and documenting out-gassing that occurred during orbit because
it will cause a different color on the spacecraft. Later, if questions
come up, we will have photographic documentation. These photographs
will give us information that might be needed for further studies and
The arm in the canister that held two trays will be removed and a different
arm from another project will be placed on it creating a new prototype.
We’re keeping and storing the original arm because it was exposed
at the same time that the trays were exposed. They had witness plates
on the arm, and we wanted to keep them for future reference and studies.
Once we find instruments that can analyze data in different ways, this
information might become significant for comparisons in future space
I often move from one area or project to another. In fact, this week
I’m working on the coupons that were on the arm. There was a piece
of aluminum, a sapphire, and a piece of Aerogel. The cover plate holding
in the aluminum and the sapphire is aluminum also. So all of that is
being photographed for the next three weeks and will be downloaded onto
the Internet as requested by [Dr.] Peter Tsou, who is one of the head
scientists. I’m also working on space-exposed hardware and Stardust
at this time, and that brings my work schedule up-to-date.
you’ve worked on so many different projects and been involved
in so many different things over the more than 40 years that you’ve
been here, what is your favorite or what are you most proud of?
Warren: Well, it
was exciting to be the first man to open the original Lunar Rock Box
[Apollo 11 Lunar Sample Return Container], but I can think of different
occasions like getting the Lunar Receiving Lab ready to receive the
lunar samples. It was a very exciting time for space travel and space
retrieval. We were working long hours, which included the electronics
department, the electrical and the vacuum department, which at that
time included the mechanical department. We were all working together
seven days a week, and we became quite a team as well as “extended
family members” within the team. The camaraderie was fantastic.
All of the excitement slowed as time moved on at the Space Center. Then
a new program called Genesis came about. New teams and friendships were
formed and the spirit of a team effort was reborn. It felt good to know
that a group of people could come together with a common goal while
striving to be the best. It was great being a part of the whole team
effort during Lunar, Stardust, and Genesis.
Genesis was different in that we had to work with Lockheed [Lockheed-Martin
Corporation out of Colorado], JPL, and NASA. Three groups from different
locations, and each of them wanted to take the lead to head up the project.
During this time we were told, “Well, you all won’t ever
be able to work with JPL.” JPL came out, and we met their team,
and yes, there was a few times that there were some disagreements, but
we jelled. We just said, “Hey listen, we’re working as a
team, and here at JSC we’re a team, and you just have to become
part of it.”
We had a meeting every morning for the day’s agenda. After working
together, especially when you go out to Utah, you’re away from
home, so you all go out to eat or you start getting to know each other.
Everybody knows where everybody’s going, and then you make up
your mind, “Well, I want to go with that group or this group,
or, is that the restaurant I want to go to?” On weekends, if we
had the weekend off, we usually had something going on. We usually said,
“Okay, let’s use the barbecue pits and have a cookout.”
That made for more unity of team building while getting prepared for
the Stardust retrieval.
So I enjoyed the excitement and preparation process for the lunar samples,
the Genesis project, and the Stardust project. The team effort on Genesis
and Stardust was so evident that we named them the A team and B team.
Both teams were excellent and well trained. We would have fallen behind
schedule if it hadn’t have been for both teams. The A team for
Genesis was almost identical to the team that was assembled for Stardust.
We called ourselves the “can-do” team. Whatever came up,
we figured it out, solved it, and completed the task at hand. It was
a great feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment.
Johnson: What is
this area or the lab going to be doing, or is there work already in
preparation for the new Constellation Program?
been asked to attend these meetings, but it’s so far ahead of
schedule I have yet to attend. I don’t know if they’re going
to use this lunar facility or if they’re going to create another
lab, but I do know that they’re not going after large samples,
since our instrumentation has gotten so much better and for scientific
data, we just don’t need large pieces of materials. We’re
either going to take chunks off of big rocks, or smaller materials where
they take a shovelful and run it through a rake and that’s the
samples they will keep. The rake will keep it to a certain size, which
is like running materials through a sieve.
I am not sure whether an existing lab will be used for the new Constellation
project or whether a new lab or possibly a new building is in the future.
you’ve had over 40 years’ experience at NASA, I was just
wondering what would you say to someone if they were considering a career
at NASA? Considering that when you started you began as a technician
just cleaning, and now with the work that you’ve done and the
different things, the experiences you’ve had here, what would
you say to someone else?
Warren: As far
as my experience goes, I attended college for four years but never received
my diploma. If I had completed my degree, I would have come up through
the “chain of command” much more quickly with higher pay
and position. However, if you’re willing to come to NASA and work
hard, I think you will really enjoy it. There was never a job that was
“too large or too small” in my mind. I wanted to know something
about everything, whether it was old or new information. I feel blessed
in knowing that I was in the right place at the right time. I learned
on my own, like particle counting and cleaning room technology as well
as NVRs [nonvolatile residues], TOCs [total organic carbon], which is
all about cleaning. I kept reading manuals and literature that would
help me become knowledgeable about whatever was occurring at that time.
So if you come to NASA and put forth 110 percent, I think that you will
be satisfied with your life experiences as well as your job benefits.
If you are fortunate enough to be chosen for one of the missions, then
it is absolutely fantastic. You see Mission Control [Center] on television,
and when a major accomplishment occurs, you might see everyone cheer
and hug each other. Many times these teams have been working 7/12s [7
days a week, 12 hours a day]. You get to know everybody, know their
family, as well as their “comings and goings”. Again, the
feeling of extended family is a side personal benefit that is not always
part of the corporate world.
Johnson: Is there
anything we haven’t talked about that you wanted to mention before
Warren: The only thing I will repeat is that I regret not completing
my college degree after spending four years at the university. I would
just like everybody to know that I feel very blessed to have been in
the right place at the right time, and that I have enjoyed my work for
the past 40 plus years.
with that, I guess we’ll end for today. Thank you.
Warren: Thank you
for the opportunity to share this information.
[End of interview]
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