Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jamaican Heads NASA Team On Space Station Expansion Project

When the “Discovery” space shuttle heads into space this month it will carry a special package ‘gift-wrapped’ by a Jamaican-born engineer and his team at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States.

Glenn Chin is NASA mission manager charged with delivering a Node 2 module called “Harmony” that will expand the docking area at the International Space Station to accommodate other space programs. Chin heads a multi-disciplined team of 30 to 40 engineers and technicians at NASA which is involved in the testing, integration and assembly processes that will make “Harmony” ready for launch inside “Discovery’s” cargo bay on the morning of Oct. 23. Once installed at the space station, “Harmony” will serve as a port for space programs from China and a combined 13 European countries.

“Harmony is a module with six docking ports where modules can dock to make the station bigger,” explained the 43-year-old Chin, who attended high schools in Jamaica and the U.S. and college at the University of Miami, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

“It’s like a six entrance hallway that you can add rooms to…It’s actually the gateway to the international partners.”

That “hallway” or central building block is 24 feet long and 15 feet wide. It weighs 31,500 pounds.

SIMPLE TASK It was built in Italy, with fine-tuning at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Chin and his team are based. He was involved in the early design and construction of “Harmony” as part of a special team, which offered NASA insight into the project’s progress. That required him to travel to Torino between 1998 and 2000. Other work assignments temporarily took Chin away from the “Harmony” project, but he would later return as mission manager. His task is simple: get “Harmony” ready for launch and make sure it works once it gets into space.

But Chin is confident it will. Discovery’s transportation of “Harmony” this month, also called “STS-120”, is not the only mission Chin has been involved with at NASA. He has been in charge of 16, four of which he has seen through to their launch. However, despite acknowledging a familiarity with the procedures required for the task, Chin said the different types of “payload” he is required to deliver in proper working order keeps the challenge interesting.

“It’s pretty routine,” he said. “The processes are pretty much the same. But the differences in hardware for each mission is unique. Each hardware is unique.”

So is his background. Chin is one of a handful of Caribbean nationals working at the Kennedy Space Center, which employs some 18,000 workers. He is proud of his heritage and credits his background for much of his success in the U.S.

“That’s huge for me,” he said. “As a Jamaican I’ve always been a hard worker, persistent. When I came to the States I realized the opportunities here and went after it. “I have enough savvy to know you can reach for your dreams in this country.” For the married father of a son, his dreams extend to outer space.

Glenn Chin's Bio

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.


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