“I had the privilege of being the very first project manager for [the] Near Space Network (NSN), and in my current role as deputy program manager for [the] Exploration and Space Communications Division, it is still in my portfolio. NSN is one of the [agency’s two] communication and navigation networks. 

“When we see the volume and the variety of NASA, other agency, and commercial missions supported by the network, and the science being achieved, and the exploration being enabled — when you leave for the day, you feel accomplished that you contributed [to the] agency’s goal. You contributed toward [the] nation’s priorities, such as cislunar [exploration], and then you helped humankind by enabling the science and exploration.

“Without communication, every satellite in this space is a black box. So, just knowing that every single day we are flowing terabytes of data through relay and direct-to-earth services directly to our [missions], enabling the exploration and achieving the science — is a great sense of accomplishment.

“… Whatever role you are in, as long as you find a way to understand what mission, what goal, what objective you are contributing to, there is no bigger motivator than that.

“As a software programmer, normally you think that your job is to come in and write some code and solve some discrepancy reports and do the testing — and then you go home.  

“But in the end, when you see that the program you are writing or fixing is something that controls the satellite that’s observing the sea levels and the sea temperatures or [controls] a capsule that is carrying astronauts, now you know you’re actually contributing to a bigger purpose, a bigger objective.

“I say that to my team, whenever I have an opportunity. I share with my team that they are enabling science and exploration for dozens of missions being supported by NSN. Initially it just seems like words, but once they start realizing [their contributions] are real, I can tell you those people don’t want to go anywhere. They just feel that sense of accomplishment.”

—Vir Thanvi, Deputy Program Manager, Exploration and Space Communications Projects Division, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Image Credit: NASA/Thalia Patrinos
Interviewer: NASA/Thalia Patrinos

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Deputy Program Manager Vir Thanvi