When Misty Pearson became a mom a photo of her newborn daughter was displayed in the International Space Station window with the distant planet earth visible in the background. That’s one of the cool perks of working for NASA, your astronaut friends celebrate milestones in a way that is literally out of this world.
Misty has had a long time fascination with space. When she was 12 years old she watched a shuttle mission with John Glenn who was one of the original astronauts and was going up again. It was then that Misty proclaimed to her parents that she wanted to be an astronaut and they both encouraged her dreams. Even at a young age they looked for opportunities to allow her to pursue this passion.
Her dad was especially instrumental in helping Misty because he has also had a love for space exploration. He acted as a guide directing to Misty to hone in what it was she really loved about space and what she wanted to pursue. After graduating High School Misty went to LeTourneau University where she decided to pursue mechanical engineering. A lot of her journey involved just eliminating what she knew she didn’t want to do. She knew the military was one route to NASA and she didn’t feel called to that. Math wasn’t really something that she got excited about either. There were a lot of classes and aspects of space travel that Misty couldn’t see herself committing to.
It wasn’t until an internship in Houston in the summer of 2008 that Misty truly found her calling. She had a friend who connected her with a woman that worked at NASA in operations. Their motto in this department is “Plan Train Fly”, meaning they plan the mission, train the crew, and fly the mission. That was the moment Misty realized this was it! This was what she wanted to do! Getting to that point was not easy. There were times Misty wanted to quit but she knew this was her God given destiny and she had a support system around her to cheer her on and give her the drive to stick it out.
Looking back at that time Misty says “I was where I was supposed to be and I just had to get through it! When it was hard and I was worried, my parents always encouraged me and reminded me of WHY I was doing this. I knew that all of the struggle was going to be worth it.”
Misty testifies of the goodness of God that divinely placed each stepping stone for her to get to where she is today. Even her first job as an Inventory and Stowage Officer was the perfect place for her to be and she only had to do ONE interview. She worked that Crew Support position full time for 6 1/2 years and she loved it.
Now she is working a slightly higher level of operation integration working through problems and finding solutions. She still loves her job and the fact that it’s not all data and engineering, but that she also gets to work very closely with the astronauts and actually have interaction with them.
PHOTO DATE: November 14, 2017
LOCATION: Bldg. 30 – FCR-1
SUBJECT: Expedition 53 flight controllers on console at JSC in FCR-1 during grapple and berthing of the Orbital ATK Cygnus CRS-8 cargo craft to the nadir port of the Unity Module on ISS.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Valcarcel
When Misty became a mom it was a big transition. She had been working at NASA for nine years at this point and now she had to navigate being a mom and an employee. She wasn’t sure how it was all going to blend together but as it turns out Misty says being a mom made her a BETTER employee.
“It has forced me to prioritize and become more efficient with time management,” Misty said. It helps that NASA and her team have been extremely supportive. “Working for NASA in flight operations there are high expectations. For some positions, there are details that could kill the crew. You have to know your stuff. You have to be on your game. You can’t make mistakes. So because of that high pressure enviroment there actually is a good balance of work and home. There is an expectation that you are taking time off and getting the rest that you need to be healthy. They support you getting family time in. There are even rules in place to ensure that you don’t work too many hours.” Misty has seen this in action first hand. “When I became a mom breastfeeding was very important to me. I was having trouble with my milk supply when it occurred to me that I am going to be working in mission control and I am going to have to pump two to three times a day!” She panicked, but decided to simply send an email to the flight director in charge of mission control for that shift and she said “Here is the deal… I am a breastfeeding mom and I am going to have to step out for 30 minutes a couple times a day and here is how we are going to do this.” She stated it very assertively because she knew it was a priority and that she had to stand her ground for her baby. “The amazing thing was I got so much support. These were male flight directors I had emailed and several of them wrote back saying: your family is the most important and that is totally fine. I appreciate you planning in advance…”
Misty says “Being a mom has taught me to speak out and stand up on behalf of my child, which has made me more willing to stand up for myself and it is empowering.”
Misty admits that she is still trying to figure out how to be a good mom and homemaker while being a good employee, wife, and woman of God all combined.
There is no superhuman woman out there absolutely crushing it in all areas, but Misty says in the past two years of pregnancy and motherhood she has learned so much about priorities. “There are a lot of things that we do (that I did) that aren’t on the priority list. So it’s this realization that our time needs to be spent on those things that are most important. That’s my time with God, that’s my time with my family, keeping our home cozy, investing in myself. Having a list of top priorities helps. Sometimes the right thing to do is leave work early so that I can spend time with my child.”
What woman doesn’t struggle with feeling like they have to juggle it all? Misty was clear that she does not have it all together and in her words is still “a work in progress but God’s helping me figure things out.” Even then Misty is such a wonderful example of how you can devote yourself to a career and pursue dreams that are outside of the home without sacrificing your family or your faith.
I can’t wait to see what happens next for Misty and her family. I love that she has a baby girl with such a strong and gifted mother to look up to. It gives a whole new meaning to reaching for the stars.