He fixes space shuttles for a livingMike Lind doesn’t ever recall a revelatory moment where he decided he was going to work on space shuttles. He just sort of always knew. The Woodbury High alumnus is now working at Kennedy National Space Center as an aerothermal engineer.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Many people have that first childhood memory of when they knew what career they wanted to pursue when they reached adulthood.
Mike Lind doesn’t ever recall a revelatory moment where he decided he was going to work on space shuttles. He just sort of always knew.
“It’s hard not to be interested in space, so I guess it’s just something I always wanted to do,” said Lind, a 2004 Woodbury High School graduate who has spent the last year working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as an aerothermal engineer. “I do remember watching shuttle launches on CNN and being really impressed by the amount of force and thrust at liftoff.”
While he grew up watching shuttle launches on television, Lind now gets to watch liftoff up close and for a living.
The Woodbury native graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University last year and found a job soon after with the United Space Alliance, a private company that serves as the prime contractor for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As an aerothermal engineer, Lind works at Kennedy Space Center with a large team of United Space Alliance and NASA engineers to “research, analyze and resolve space shuttle orbiter thermal anomalies,” i.e. he gets to get up close to the shuttles and help fix any issues associated with the outer skin of the orbiters.
Up close and personal
Currently the Kennedy Space Center, located near Cape Canaveral in southern Florida, is preparing to launch the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The shuttle was scheduled to launch last month on a mission to install the final addition of a Japanese space lab on the International Space Station, but was delayed twice when hydrogen fuel leaks were discovered and repaired. After experiencing a few weather-related delays earlier this month, Endeavor was scheduled to have launched this week, an event Lind said never gets old for the 15,000-plus employees working at the space station.
“It’s unbelievable to be there, to feel the shockwave during the liftoff,” said Lind, who has had the chance to work on the Endeavor over the last few months. “The liftoff and the reentry, making sure the shuttle comes home safe, that’s the unified goal we all have down here. It’s exciting to be a part of.”
Although Lind has only been working at Kennedy Space Center for just more than a year, he’s been living in southern Florida since fall 2004 when he began his studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Lind chose the school because of its high-rate of graduates who go on to work for or with NASA. The tropical weather was an added bonus.
“It was pretty cool to look out your dorm window and see palm trees, Lind said, “and to know the ocean was in close proximity.”
Lind said he was fortunate to get a job he loves during a time where the poor economy has made it hard for his peers to get jobs in the profession.
“It was always the plan to come down here for school and hopefully get a job working for NASA,” Lind said. “But I feel lucky that I could find a great job right away.”
Lind said his first interview with his eventual employer was a little nerve-wracking.
“I came into the room and (the interviewers) handed me a box full of different shuttle parts,” he recalled. “It was pretty exciting, but it was also pretty intimidating.”
Over the last year, Lind has done hands-on work with several of NASA’s orbiters. Hours for work are determined by what type of work needs to be done.
A crew of inspectors go through various parts of the shuttle after reentry or before a scheduled launch. Any anomalies or problems detected are recorded and then handed down to engineering teams. That’s where Lind comes in.
“We have people who tell us what happened,” Lind said. “We are pretty much trying to figuring why it happened and how to fix it.”
Lind and his team then write orders for technicians to make an repairs or improvements.
Nearly all of Lind’s work is on issues with the skin and the reinforced carbon tiles that protect the shuttle during reentry.
“Those tiles on the underside of the orbiter are designed to withstand up to 2,300 degrees,” Lind said. “It’s an impressive amount of that is produced during reentry.”
The tiles are bonded to the aluminum skin of the orbiter, which Lind said cannot withstand temperatures more than 350 degrees.
On the home front
While he has only been home to Woodbury twice in the last year since he was hired to work at the space center, Lind said he always has plenty of stories and photos to share during his visits with family and friends.
His mother Mary Lind said his family is proud of his work.
“We miss him, but we know this is something he loves doing,” Mary Lind said. “And he does a good job of it.”