If you've ever seen the movie "Apollo 13," you might remember the character Gene Kranz, a stoic man in a white vest who uttered the words "failure is not an option." That's the flight director, the individual ultimately responsible for the safety and success of every mission NASA has ever flown or will fly.
This month, NASA added three people to the ranks of active flight directors, bringing the total to 25. Judd Frieling, Tomas Gonzalez-Torres and Greg Whitney are the newest members of a group that has comprised 83 individuals over NASA's history.
Because NASA is no longer flying the space shuttle, flight directors are responsible for operations on the International Space Station and developing plans for future missions. Frieling, Gonzalez-Torres and Whitney will lead teams of flight controllers (the people who monitor each individual console in Mission Control), support personnel and other experts from around the world after undergoing training and completing certification.
Each of the new flight directors has served previously as a flight controller and holds a degree in aerospace engineering.
Frieling, a native Texan, has supported 20 shuttle flights as a Data Processing Systems officer and also supported the space station as an Onboard Data Interfaces and Network officer. He has been with NASA since 1997.
You might recognize Gonzalez-Torres from "Hubble's Amazing Rescue," an episode of "NOVA" on PBS. The show captured him on camera as the lead spacewalk officer for the STS-125 Hubble rescue mission. He has been with NASA since 1994.
Whitney has been with NASA since 2002 and has supported 14 ISS missions and 12 space shuttle missions. He was the lead Flight Activities Officer for the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis.