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NASA flight director says parents, town fueled dreams

July 05, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

LEMASTERS, Pa. -- People have asked Scott Stover if growing up in the small Pennsylvania hamlet of Lemasters put his dreams at a disadvantage.

To the 30-year-old NASA flight director, that question is nothing short of absurd.

"I owe everything to my parents and the community that supported me," he said. "Growing up in Franklin County gave me a strong sense of purpose and pride in my country that made me want to pursue my career."

Having just been appointed a flight director to lead Mission Control in Houston, Stover scoffs at the idea that his humble childhood would have hindered his success.

The Franklin County native was one of a three NASA flight controllers recently appointed to the level of flight director.

Only 77 men and women in the history of NASA have held the job, said John McCullough, chief of the flight director office.

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Stover said he will be one of about 12 currently certified flight directors after his training is complete.

"It's a very honorable, very important and very rewarding position," he said. "It is also very demanding."

Perhaps the most famous flight director to lead mission control was Gene Kranz, who led Houston while Apollo 13 orbited the moon.

Men like Kranz have been an inspiration to Stover since he was a child.

The son of a Chambersburg, Pa., firefighter and a nurse, Stover said pursuing dreams was always encouraged by his parents, Richard and Linda Stover.

"I couldn't have made it this far without their support for my dreams and my education," he said. "I always felt that no matter what your background, you could always do whatever it is you wanted to do."

In 2000, Stover graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, and in 2004, he obtained his master's degree in space architecture from the University of Houston.

Even what he learned at James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa., helped prepared him for his role, he said.

A flight director must be a jack of all trades who is skilled at working with many personality types, as well as engineering systems, Stover said.

"I could be called upon to make a very critical decision for the safety of the crew or for mission success," he said.

While the next eight months of training should prepare him for most anything space could throw at him, he said it will be a challenge learning about the new and aging equipment on the international space station.

McCullough said all recently selected flight directors will begin training as international space station flight directors.

"This group will help us transition the knowledge and experience from the existing human space flight programs into the development and execution of our exploration program with the new Orion spacecraft in the years to come," he said.

For now, Stover said he is just glad that he is now allowed to share the news of his new appointment with his family.

When he was told he would have the job, he said he had to keep the news to himself for days until NASA made its formal announcement.

With the cat out of the bag, he said he can smile and enjoy his success.

"I know my family is happy for me, too," he said. "Like I said, I couldn't have done this without them."

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