ACU students quiz NASA on how to pick an astronaut
Videoconference links class with human
resources staff in Houston
By LORETTA FULTON
Staff Writer, Abilene
April 27, 2000
"NASA, can you hear me?" sounds like a chilling line from
a movie about astronauts lost in space.
But on Wednesday morning, it was a simple question
signaling the beginning of a video-conference at Abilene
Christian University. Students in Malcolm Coco's
"Introduction to Human Resources Management" class took part
in the interactive conference with three panelists from the
Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The panelists were human resources representatives whose
job is to select astronauts for NASA's space program.
Students learned the field of human resources is pretty
much the same whether working for a corporation such as IBM
or the more exotic space program.
The differences lie in the work environment and the
nature of the business, said panelist Natalie Saiz. En route
to work every day, Saiz passes by a Saturn rocket and the
reality of her job kicks in.
"Wow, I'm really lucky to be here" is her reaction every
day, she said.
A major part of the job for NASA human resources
personnel is the astronaut selection process. Duane Ross
said his office has 3,000 applications for 20 slots.
There's no challenge finding young men and women, he
said. "They find us."
Instead, the challenge is to find applicants with the
right stuff for space travel. Chief among the qualities
sought is the ability to be a team player, Ross said. By the
time the field is narrowed to the final selection, all the
applicants have met the basic educational, medical and
experience requirements, he said.
Human resources professionals must decide which ones will
be able to get along well in a cramped space vehicle for
long periods of time.
It all boils down to one basic question. "Would I want to
fly with this person?" Ross said.
Human resources personnel at NASA also deal with more
down-to-earth problems such as helping employees through
stressful family situations.
But by far, the astronaut selection process is the most
visible part of the job. That's because the astronauts
themselves are highly visible, thanks to an aggressive
public relations effort.
Ross said astronauts make about 5,000 public appearances
each year. Choosing the right people who will make a
favorable impression is critical.
"We like to feel comfortable they're a good
representative for us," Ross said.
Contact higher education writer Loretta
Fulton at 676-6778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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