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Ginger Kerrick

First Latina Director of NASA Mission Control and 30-Year Veteran of the Johnson Space Center; STEM Ambassador
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Ginger Kerrick shares her roadmap for building the teams that helped transform NASA’s fragmented culture, driving innovation and resilience. 

During her 30-year tenure at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Ginger Kerrick led teams through waves of challenge and change during NASA’s most innovative decades since the Apollo missions. Adept at understanding what it took to build, equip and motivate teams to work across organizational boundaries, she led the highly successful effort to integrate the design, development, test and operations phases of human spaceflight missions with a focus on crew safety. She also supported NASA’s highly successful collaborations with industry, including SpaceX, to deliver American astronauts safely to the International Space Station in 2020. Today she shares her insights, showing business leaders how to apply the NASA model of change management to build a culture designed for resilience and innovation. 

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, in the 1980s, she wanted to be an astronaut, but she had to overcome enormous challenges, including the death of her father, to get to NASA. With scholarships and part-time jobs, she completed a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and then landed a summer internship at NASA. Soon, she had her first real job at NASA as a materials engineer. Finally, at the age of 26, Kerrick was invited to interview to become an astronaut — the job she’d always wanted — but a kidney stone condition meant a lifetime disqualification. 

She was crushed, but once she accepted what was beyond her control to change, she became unstoppable. She talked leadership into creating a new “training integration” position that let her travel with the first ISS crew to Russia. Soon after, she became the first non-astronaut “CAPCOM,” the person in Houston who speaks to the in-orbit crew. In 2005, she joined NASA’s elite cadre of Flight Directors, at the helm of Mission Control, and she was the first Latina, the first CAPCOM and the fifth woman in the agency’s history to do so. From there she moved quickly into NASA leadership positions.

A vocal advocate for the importance of STEM careers and education, Kerrick has served as a part-time professor for the STEM MBA program at Texas Tech University's Rawls College of Business, and she speaks frequently to both business leaders and students in STEM programs across the country. In 2016, Kerrick was one of five women named to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2019 she was sworn in as a member of the Texas Tech Board of Regents. 

Ginger Kerrick was profiled in the Universal Pictures documentary The Wonderful: Stories from the International Space Station (2021) and in the book Making Space for Women: Stories from Trailblazing Women of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (2021).

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