The Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has a new chief flight director.
In her new role, Emily Nelson leads the group that directs human spaceflight missions. She succeeds Amarillo native Holly Ridings, who held the job from 2018 to 2022. Ridings now is a leader of NASA’s Gateway Program, which is working to establish the first space station that orbits the moon.
“Emily’s tenure leading our flight control teams has proven that she is remarkably knowledgeable on the realities of human spaceflight and eminently composed when facing daunting challenges,” Norm Knight, NASA’s director of flight operations, says in a news release. “She is unequivocally the right person to lead our flight director office as we endeavor to push the boundaries of human spaceflight exploration.”
Nelson manages 31 flight directors and directors-in-training who oversee a human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station and Artemis missions to the moon.
Nelson, born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Austin, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. She joined NASA in 1998 as a flight controller in the space station’s thermal operations group.
She became a flight director in 2007. Since then, she has served as lead flight director for several missions, including the station’s fourth utilization and logistics flight with the space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and a series of spacewalks to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. She had been NASA’s deputy chief flight director before being named acting chief flight director following Ridings’ departure.
In 2018, Nelson completed a record-breaking 735th shift as a flight director at Mission Control.