In Nasa’s 63 years, it has never had an Asian American flight director. Pooja Jesrani made history filling this role.
She recently talked to AccuWeather in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month about her groundbreaking position.
“It’s awesome to be a role model for younger kids, I have a six-year-old daughter and when she sees me in a book or in a magazine she’s so proud to see her mother who’s South Asian in a role like this,” Jesrani said to AccuWeather. “But on the other side, when I walk in this room in mission control, I just feel like a flight director. Though I’m defined by the fact that I’m a female and I’m South Asian, etc I just feel like a flight director.”
In 2018, Jesrani was selected as Nasa’s first South Asian flight director at the Johnson Space Center and has been the acting lead flight director for the International Space Station (ISS). Jesrani is in charge of all operations relating to the human spaceflight programs, including the International Space Station (ISS).
She is the 101st flight director in NASA history
Jesrani said both of her parents are influences on her, but she first became interested in space because her father had an interest in it throughout his life.
“My dad is a huge space nerd. I mean, he introduced me to all space movies, we had a telescope, I’d read space books. I even had the glow in the dark stars in my room as a child,” Jesrani said to AccuWeather.
She said her father encouraged her to go into aerospace engineering and she fell in love with it.
Starting her Nasa career in 2007, Jesrani was first a member of the flight control team. In 2016 she was selected to be a Capsule Communicator for the ISS, connecting directly with astronauts aboard the station.
Jesrani’s recommendation to the younger generation is to always “try your best” and find something “you love”.
“It may be something like what I’m doing, which is being a flight director of mission control. It may be being the best dancer at the New York ballet, whatever it is just continue to work hard,” Jesrani said to AccuWeather. “Other than that, find a really good mentor. I feel like I got a lot of mentorship throughout my career here at Nasa. I had some really great people that kind of helped me find my path.”
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