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Mission Manager

Diana Calero stands with the rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter spacecraft.

Diana Calero stands with the rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter spacecraft. Image courtesy of Diana Calero.

Wild Weather Jobs: Mission Manager

We often take it for granted that weather satellites will orbit Earth and give us information we need about the weather. However, launching a satellite into orbit is no easy task. Luckily, Diana Manent Calero, a mission manager in the Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center, is very good at her job.

In November 2016, she and her team successfully launched the GOES-16 weather satellite into orbit. We recently spoke with her about her work—and the path she took to get such a cool job!

Dreams of Space

Calero stands at the launchpad shortly before the launch of the TDRS-K spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center.

Calero stands at the launchpad shortly before the launch of the TDRS-K spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center. Image courtesy of Diana Calero

“Like most kids, I dreamed of being an astronaut when I grew up,” Calero says. While reading through her baby book as a child, she realized that she was born the same year as the first moon landing. “As I was reading the article, it struck me that I wanted to be the one on the moon. I wanted to work for NASA,” she says.

In high school, Calero took her first computer programming class and she was hooked. She had found a passion—and a path to her dream job at NASA.

“I studied hard, and I loved my engineering classes. In my junior year, I had the opportunity to do an internship at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and everything fell into place for me,” Calero says. After graduation, she was offered a job at Kennedy Space Center, and she’s worked there ever since.

A typical day in Launch Services

Although Calero admits that she has a really cool job—launching rockets for NASA—she says it’s also a lot of hard work. Calero has to stay organized and juggle lots of responsibilities.

“As a mission manager in the Launch Services Program, you are usually working on about three missions with varying launch dates. That means that each mission is in a different stage, and you have to manage your time well,” she says.

Calero needs to understand how all the pieces of the launch—such as technical details and budget requirements—will fit together. She says communication is also a really important part of her job.

“There is a lot of communication going in all directions all the time. I may have a day where I will talk to people from all of the disciplines involved in a mission. I send lots of emails, but we also have many phone calls and in-person meetings to make sure everyone in the mission is on the same page,” she says.

In her spare time, Calero loves to kayak with her kids, and she enjoys traveling abroad. Here she is in Switzerland--her favorite country in Europe.

In her spare time, Calero loves to kayak with her kids, and she enjoys traveling abroad. Here she is in Switzerland--her favorite country in Europe. Image courtesy of Diana Calero.

A Successful Launch

Once Calero learns that she’ll be working on a mission, a lot happens to ensure a successful launch. “Throughout this time, we study all of the ways that the spacecraft and the rocket need to work together,” she says. “We do many analyses to make sure that the spacecraft can withstand everything the rocket will put it through.”

Once the spacecraft is separated from the launch vehicle, the rocket’s job is done. And at that point, Calero’s job for the mission is done as well.

“The coolest part of my job is definitely the launch—and best of all is launch day. It’s very exciting, but also very nerve-racking,” she says.

Tips on entering this field

“If you get the chance to take advanced math in middle and high school, take the challenge and choose the tougher math class,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be discouraged if you come upon some challenges in certain areas. You can overcome them, and the feeling of satisfaction you get from that is fantastic.”