The People of Artemis: Jeremy Parsons, NASA Exploration Ground Systems Deputy Manager
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — At the recent rollout of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket, Spaceflight Insider had the opportunity to speak with a number of people involved in its design, construction, assembly, and flight — The People of Artemis.
One of those people is Jeremy W. Parsons, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) deputy program manager.
The EGS program is based at Kennedy Space Center and “was established to develop and operate the systems and facilities necessary to process and launch rockets and spacecraft.” EGS has approximately 3,000 workers — including both NASA employees and contractors.
Parsons was born in Oakland, California, and grew up in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He obtained his bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and his master’s in industrial engineering from the University of Miami. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida, with his wife, Jessica, and his two young daughters.
Parsons’ grandfather worked on the Atlas program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and then at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. His father also worked at Kennedy.
He’s been with NASA since 2002, and with EGS for a little more than 10 years. He was appointed to his current position in 2019 — working for EGS Manager Mike Bolger.
Spaceflight Insider asked what we would have seen if we had “shadowed” him for the past two weeks.
“Pretty intense,” Parsons said. “We’ve been working really hard. And when you get to a point like this, you can’t have any hanging chads, you can’t have anything left open. So, we’ve been pushing our teams really hard to get all of their paper closed out, every little non-conformance, every little chip of paint done, so that when we rollout we’re not coming back to establish access.”
Because he mentioned “paint,” we asked about the recent addition of the painted NASA “worm” logo to the Artemis 1 solid rocket boosters (SRBs).
That was a “[former NASA Administrator, Jim] Bridenstine decision,” Parsons said. But, “we really helped to set up some agreements to get that work done.”
“When you see it, it looks pretty awesome,” he said. “Our teams really did some great stuff. What they did, they actually loaded into a laser, they shoot the laser up there, … projected it onto the booster, tape around that, and then they go in and paint. They did a really good job.”
Continuing on the subject of recent EGS work, Parsons said: “We’ve been keeping really close tabs on all the final preparations because as you move back each of those [Vehicle Assembly Building work] platforms, you’re tracking down any last-minute issues, you’re making sure nothing is a constraint to roll. If there’s any risk, or decisions, that need to be accepted, we’re in the middle of those, kind of pushing.”
“More broadly, we are also trying to get the word out about what we’re doing. Kind of show off our baby to the world, if you will,” Parsons said. “Now is going to be a really good chance to do that. We’re really fortunate that a lot of people want to be a part of it.”
We then asked about the specific role of EGS in the overall Artemis program.
“We are responsible for putting the rocket together,” Parsons said, “We get each of the SRB segments, we get the core stage, … our engineers put everything together. When you’re putting that core stage onto the mobile launcher, and you’ve got less than an inch of clearance, it’s an Exploration Ground Systems guy that’s running the crane. It’s our engineers that are leading the stacking.”
“Our guys run the tests. They actually run the launch countdown,” he said. “It’s all Exploration Ground Systems guys monitoring vehicle pressures, monitoring systems, temperatures, all of those things. That’s all our guys on the ground here. The guy throwing the power switch, to checking out the boxes. The guy, or gal, I should say, putting the hypergols in the vehicle, is us. Loading the cryos, that’s us.”
Further, we asked how EGS interacts with other NASA programs, centers and contractors, such as Boeing (SLS core stage), Northrup Grumman (SLS SRBs and Launch Abort System), and Lockheed Martin (Orion capsule).
“Once it gets down here, our team is in charge of it,” Parsons said. “What Marshall [Space Flight Center] and Johnson [Space Center] retain is design authority. So, if I power on that box and it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, we say ‘hey.’ We work with them on resolving those issues and, a lot of times, it’ll be our folks that go in and make the change, swap out the box, do whatever.”
Finally, we asked how it feels to finally get to the first rollout.
“It’s been a long time coming. I am really excited,” Parsons said. “I have two daughters. They’re going to be out here today. And I, more than anything, want to see the look on their faces when they see the size of this vehicle. It’s going to be like nothing they’ve ever seen. I mean, 322 feet tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty. I want to see the look on their faces.”
“When my second daughter was about two years old, I took a job leading the testing, the fabrication, of those [Mobile Launcher 1 / SLS] umbilicals, and it was behind schedule,” he said. “So, I’ve been working six or seven days a week, kind of through all that, and I want them to kind of see … the sacrifices we made as a family. This is what it’s about.”
Stay tuned to Spaceflight Insider for more on the people of Artemis.
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.