Watch Astronaut Instructor and Flight Controller Theresa Parks at Work

I’m an astronaut instructor and flight controller. That means that I teach astronauts all about their spacesuits and how to get ready for a spacewalk. Then, I work in Mission Control when the astronauts go on spacewalks and do all of those activities on the space station.

As early as I can remember, I’ve always really liked math and science. I took extra math classes after school in Junior High and helped to establish a Science Club when I was in high school. When I was a freshman in high school, I was lucky enough to win a free trip to a space camp in Kansas. I absolutely loved learning about space history and NASA, and even completing a pretend Space Shuttle mission. 

After coming back from that week of space camp, I couldn’t stop talking about it. From then on, I knew that I wanted to do anything space-related when I grew up. I went to an all-girls high school in St. Louis, MO. My teachers were all very encouraging and wanted to help me pursue a career in space. I went to college at Saint Louis University where I studied Physics and Aeronautics. 

I also went back to space camp to work as a counselor during the summers. After college I was hired to work at NASA Johnson Space Center in Mission Control for Space Shuttle Missions! After the last shuttle mission was over, I started working in Mission Control for the International Space Station. Now I work for the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) group, which is a fancy name for spacewalk. 

Theresa Perks - EMU1

Spacesuit selfie after teaching astronauts how to put together their suits

DATE: 1-13-17
LOCATION: Bldg 30 FCR-1 and back rooms.
SUBJECT: Expedition 51 Flight Control Team during U.S. EVA # 39 to replace the 1A power channel batteries; EVA crewmembers are Kimbrough (EV 1) and Pesquet (EV 2).
PHOTOGRAPHER: Lauren Harnett

Working in Mission Control during a spacewalk

Theresa Perks - NBL1

Training in a spacesuit

Theresa Perks - NBL3

Practicing doing a spacewalk in a pool under water so that it’s like floating in space

WORDS OF ADVICE: If you are like me and love everything about space, then there are some great ways to help set you on a path to getting a space job someday. Spend some time at your local science center or planetarium - I always found that these were fun ways to learn. If you have the opportunity, take a variety of math, science, and engineering classes. There are lots of different types of science and engineering, and we need most of them in the space industry. Find which type you like the best, and then study hard!

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