With every new administration, a NASA employee must be prepared to deal with the changes that occur. It is important to be flexible with your plans based upon circumstances and to be flexible enough to accommodate an opportunity that shows up in your mailbox someday. That was Vince Bilardo’s message to the 2010 NASA Glenn Academy on June 17 at 7pm. The location was a cozy conference room equipped with washer and dryer, oven, full size fridge and dishwasher. The main room held large rectangular tables and enough chairs to hold the Academy interns, their operations manager and guest speaker.
Change can happen at any time. Case in point was the PowerPoint presentation that Vince prepared for the Academy. It decided not to work. Undaunted, he pressed on. Vince is a program and project manager in the Space Flight Systems Directorate at NASA Glenn. He is in charge of Ares-1-X and manages diverse and complex projects. For example, his work on the Ares 1-X included building eleven 18-foot diameter steel segments that were stacked together to make up the upper stage simulator that flew on the Ares 1-X mission back in October 2009. Vince managed this project for the first four years he was here at NASA Glenn.
After introducing himself to the Academy, Vince turned the tables and asked us to introduce ourselves. He invited us to explain how and why we got into NASA Glenn program, our research at the Center and what we hope to gain by participating. As we went around the room, we noticed that there was a common thread among the Academy members that Vince said he shared as well: the dream of one day being an astronaut. Vince said that he was fascinated with the space program and the thought that he could be an astronaut someday is what inspired him to work hard to get his engineering degrees: a Bachelor of Science degree in fluid and thermal science and Masters in mechanical engineering from Case Western Reserve University. After graduation, Vince sent out resumes to all 10 centers and NASA headquarters. About one month later he received a letter in the mail offering him a job at Kennedy Space Center. Since he always wanted to work in the space program, he took the job. And the rest…well, is history. A history that has taken him to different NASA Centers and new adventures, but always the same core passion: the space program.
Change came again with the induction of the Obama administration. The budget and recommendation sent to Congress called for the discontinuation of the Ares 1-X program, among others. Yes, NASA’s focus is shifting yet again, but this is the name of the game for anyone who works in government. It requires resilience and fortitude to recognize opportunities that present themselves in tides of change. The Academy appreciated Vince’s candor and will remember his words as we look to recognize opportunities in ever changing times.