Amarillo native leads NASA’s gateway program for the lunar space station
Amarillo native Holly Ridings, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) first female chief flight director, helps lead NASA’s Gateway program, an international partnership to establish the world’s first space station. humanity orbiting the Moon.
NASA announced Ridings’ new position in late May as deputy program director for the Gateway program. In her additional role, she will lead teams to create and launch NASA’s first human-prone fundamental infrastructure, Artemis I, which will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions under the Gateway program that will enable human exploration in space, including the Moon. and March.
“The Gateway program will be incredibly well served by Holly’s tremendous experience supporting the International Space Station,” said Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager. “Through Gateway, NASA is extending more than 20 years of discovery, research and international collaboration in low Earth orbit into deep space, beginning with the Moon.”
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Ridings, a native of Amarillo, attended Texas A&M University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1996. A year later, in 1997, she began her NASA career as a flight controller in the thermal operations group, working at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Later, Ridings became a flight controller at NASA’s Mission Control Center, located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she led various teams supporting the International Space Station. In September 2018, Ridings was named chief flight director, for her mission contributions and leadership during the first commercial cargo spacecraft mission to the space station in 2012.
Ridings said his new position allows him to work with a new facet of spaceflight.
“I’m still new to Gateway; until a few weeks ago I was in operations focused on the spacecraft flight side of the equation. It was awesome. I loved it, and now I’m have the opportunity to come to the build the spacecraft side to learn what it takes to get these incredible vehicles off the ground and into space and sustaining them with human presence for several years,” Ridings said.
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Based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Gateway program is an international collaboration building a small, human-powered space station that will orbit the Moon as a core component of NASA’s Artemis missions.
“It’s a really exciting mission. The space station is expected to stay there for more than 15 years. … It’s really going to change the way we look at the sky and the Moon, and it will kind of give us a toe hold out there in space,” Ridings said. “The overall goal is to get to the Moon and then stay there so that one day we can travel to Mars from that point.”
The Gateway program will host many sustained deep space exploration and research capabilities, including docking ports for various visiting spacecraft and space for crew to live and work. The research will focus on three main components, including on-board scientific investigation, study of topics such as heliophysics, human health and life sciences. The second component of research will be the development of technology to enable further exploration; the third area of research will include the exploration of Mars and information for one day being able to travel further into space.
According to Ridings, Artemis I is currently in the construction and planning phase, where his involvement is centered. Once the construction part is complete, the Artemis will be assembled and then prepared for its launch scheduled for later in the year 2024.
To learn more about the NASA project, visit https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars.