Spaceflight Insider

Generations: The people of the Space Launch System

NASA Space Launch System SLS test article NASA photo a posted on SpaceFlight Insider - Copy

Image Credit: NASA

NEW ORLEANS, La. — NASA and Boeing are working together, at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), to produce the core stage of a massive new vehicle – the Space Launch System (SLS) – which is intended to propel humans further into space than ever before. This effort requires more than just new hardware and processes – it also requires people.

Boeing recently provided SpaceFlight Insider with the opportunity to interview two such people – one with over thirty years of industry experience, and another who is just beginning her career.

For Gary Lee Burnett, the space program is a family affair. His father worked at MAF in the 1960s and 1970s on the Saturn V S-1C stage that launched humans to the Moon during the Apollo Program. Burnett later chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and has worked at MAF since the early 1980s – first on the Shuttle external tank (ET), and now on the SLS for Boeing. Also, for a time, Burnett’s daughter worked at MAF as an X-ray technician on the Shuttle ET.

For Amanda Gertjejansen, the industry of spaceflight is a new experience. She’s a New Orleans’ native, a graduate of Louisiana State University (LSU), and has worked for Boeing for a few years. However, she only transferred to MAF after Boeing received the core-stage contract and now works as an industrial engineer on the SLS program.

Burnett and Gertjejansen are from different eras and have very different backgrounds, but, in their own way, they’re both contributing to the efforts of NASA and Boeing to fly American astronauts beyond Earth orbit and on to Mars.

Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider


Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.

Reader Comments

My wife Karen and I were in the MAF “model room” while this segment was being filmed! Later that day, we met Ms. Gertjejansen at MAF’s Vertical Assembly Center. Our MAF tour was on 14 August 2015, the day after an RS-25 test at Stennis Space Center. NASA, Boeing and the rest of the SLS team are doing great work at MAF. Go SLS!

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