Central Florida Roundup
NASA manager outlines the agency's goals for deep space
To the Moon and Beyond
NASA manager Jenny Lyons outlines the space agency’s goals for deep space.
Jenny Lyons recalls watching a space shuttle launch on TV with her father when she was in high school and being puzzled by scenes from the launch control center. “Why do you suppose there aren’t any women there in the firing room?” she asked her father. “He said, ‘I don’t know. Why don’t you go do something about that?’ He just laid that challenge out there,” she says.
Lyons accepted the challenge and studied aerospace and ocean engineering at Virginia Tech. After graduating, she landed a job at Grumman Aerospace in Melbourne, working on the defense giant’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Program. Two years later (in 1988), she realized her dream of working at Kennedy Space Center when she was hired as an operations engineer in space shuttle processing. “That’s where the action was. That’s where the smoke and fire was, so that was my dream,” she says.
Lyons remained with the space shuttle program for more than a decade. She eventually transitioned to Kennedy’s Launch Services Program, which, as she says, “launches all of NASA’s big science missions on commercial rockets: Atlas, Delta or Falcon” and did that for about 15 years before making the leap to Deep Space Logistics a couple of years ago.
In a recent interview with FLORIDA TREND, Lyons talked about her current role as the acting manager of Gateway Deep Space Logistics for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon by 2024. She also discussed the strides women have made in the nation’s space workforce.
What’s Deep Space? “A lot of the work we’ve been doing in recent years, in terms of human exploration, has been in low Earth orbit — about 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. That’s where shuttles went, where the International Space Station is. Once you start trekking out toward the moon, that’s about 250,000 miles,” Lyons says.
Space Supply Chains: In her new role, Lyons and her team are responsible for the supply chain for missions from the Earth to the Gateway, an orbiting platform that will serve as an outpost, where astronauts can stop and stock up on supplies before venturing to the moon or beyond. “There’s a lot of complexities and a lot of challenges to address when you’re in deep space,” she says.
Sustainable Exploration: With Artemis, the aim is to make lunar missions sustainable, by doing things such as mining moon ice to convert to water. “We’re going back to stay this time. When you do that, then you start talking about the need for resupply of things like air, water and food — and the hope is when we get there, if we can stay there for long enough periods of time, we can figure out how to live off the land, so to speak,” she says.
Beyond the Moon: “All of the challenges I mentioned before, going 250 miles versus 250,000 miles — those are marked again when you make the leap to another planet like Mars. That’s exactly what Gateway and the Artemis program are geared to do. It’s to prepare us for those eventual missions to Mars.”
Closing the Gender Gap: Today, “women make up greater than 50% of our workforce at NASA and fill more than 50% of the leadership positions at the space center — notably, our new center director, Janet Petro. So it’s really not unusual at all anymore,” she says.
- Conti Federal Services, a construction and engineering company specializing in disaster preparedness, high-security structures and other specialized areas for the federal government, relocated from New Jersey to Orlando.
- Re-Engineered Business Solutions of Cocoa won a $32-million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers to operate and maintain several flood-control projects at lakes in Arkansas.
- Volusia County received a $4-million Cares Act grant to spur the development of a pharmaceutical research, manufacturing and distribution facility on 56 acres next to Daytona Beach International Airport. The county is contributing $1 million to the project, called Project COVID, which is expected to spur $150 million in private investment and 360 jobs.
- Grant Thornton, an independent audit, tax and advisory firm based in Chicago, has established a second facility in Orlando that will employ 60. The firm, which already has an office in downtown Orlando, plans to focus on sales/use, property tax compliance and consulting services at the facility.
- InnovaCare Health, a physician practice management service that operates more than two dozen clinics in Florida, is moving its headquarters from White Plains, N.Y., to Lake Nona, creating 60 jobs.
- American Landmark Apartments recently purchased Central Station Apartments, a 279-unit apartment complex in downtown Orlando, for $65.3 million. It’s the Tampa-based company’s sixth acquisition in the Orlando region and expands American Landmark’s Florida portfolio to 23 properties.
- Ustler Development and Allen Morris Co. plan to build $250 million in projects — including a 12-story office building, a hotel and a residential tower — in downtown Orlando’s Creative Village.
- The Seminole County Commission plans to purchase Deer Run Country Club in Casselberry and the Wekiva Golf Club in Longwood to transform them into public parks.
- The owners of the Minnesota Vikings football team — the Wilf family — purchased the Orlando City Soccer Club from Flávio Augusto da Silva in a deal estimated to be worth between $400 million to $450 million. The purchase included both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride (the professional women’s soccer team), Exploria Stadium and all related assets, including the club’s two official training facilities. The DeVos family, owners of the Orlando Magic basketball team and longtime friends of the Wilfs, bought a minority stake in the soccer franchises.
- Daytona Beach Racers, an American Basketball Association expansion team, will kick off its first season with home games at the Ocean Convention Center.
- Despite virtually no international visitors, June attendance at Universal Orlando Resort exceeded 2019 levels, company executives reported in a second-quarter earnings conference call. The theme park unveiled its VelociCoaster over the summer with “some of the highest guest satisfaction scores we’ve had,” CFO Michael Cavanagh says.
- Carnival Cruise’s Mardi Gras ship (which features a roller coaster on its deck) embarked on its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral in July, marking the first commercial cruise out of the port since the COVID-19 pandemic. Port Canaveral, which derives the bulk of its revenue from the cruise industry, also received $72 million in COVID-related financial relief — the largest chunk of any port in Florida from the state — around the same time.
Read more in Florida Trend's October issue.
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