As part of a pre-TV interview mic check at Spartanburg’s Piedmont Club, Charlie Blackwell Thompson was asked to count to ten.
“I prefer to count backwards,” she said with a smile. She has countdown experience.
Blackwell Thompson, a Gaffney native and Clemson University alumnus, is the first woman named NASA’s launch director. She was a keynote speaker at the Mary L. Thomas Awards for Civic Leadership and the Community Transformation Fund’s Annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon.
more:Gaffney native has director seat at launch
Thomas, COO of the Spartanburg County Foundation and executive director of the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy, established the event in 2018 to honor women who are leaders and agents of change in the Spartanburg region. did.
In front of more than 300 attendees, Thomas said Blackwell-Thompson’s career embodies the event’s themes of “courage, strength and resilience.”
Charlene Blackwell graduated from Gaffney High School in 1983 and received a degree in Computer Engineering from Clemson University in 1988.
During her senior year at Clemson University, while deciding on her career path, she traveled to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to interview for a software engineering job at Boeing. She toured her Firing Room 1, the launch control center for the Space Shuttle program.
She said NASA engineers are testing Shuttle Discovery in preparation for its first mission after the Challenger disaster in January 1986, more than two years ago.
Blackwell-Thompson described the “different language” of call signs and acronyms spoken in the room and the excitement and purpose of the people working there.
“I didn’t know what they were doing, but all I knew was that they had to work in that room,” she said. I had to find a way to get in, and that became my goal.”
In collaboration with Boeing and eventually NASA, they worked on the software and electrical systems of the Hubble Space Telescope-like shuttle and the payloads it carries.
As Test Director, she became one of the voices heard by viewers in numerous broadcasts of the launch explaining the process of preparing a spacecraft ready for launch.
In 2016, he was appointed launch director for the Artemis program, which will return manned spacecraft to the moon and beyond.
But the tiger that was once will always be a tiger. Today, she still wears her Clemson strap when monitoring operations from the launch director’s console in the launch chamber, in front of an angled window overlooking Launch Pad 39B.
She says she tries to return to Clemson and to Gaffney to see her family when her schedule allows.
“I love South Carolina,” said Blackwell Thompson. “I’ve been away from her for 30 years, and if someone asks me where I live, I say, ‘I live in Florida, but my house is in South Carolina.'”
Thomas’ description of the process of inviting Blackwell-Thompson to speak at the December 3rd event is a study of networking in small towns in South Carolina.
After appearing together on a panel discussion as part of a Milliken-provided videoconference in March, Thomas said he would like to invite Blackwell Thompson to speak at the Women in Leadership event.
Through Facebook, Thomas learned that a high school friend was a cousin of Blackwell Thompson. Her friend’s mother, Blackwell-Thompson’s aunt, spoke with her Blackwell-Thompson mother, who passed on her Thomas’ invitation every Saturday morning on the phone with her daughter.
“Look, that’s how we do it here,” said Thomas, laughing and clapping.
Once the connection was made, details of Blackwell-Thompson’s appearance and keynote were finalized.
One of these details is the timing of the launch of NASA’s often-delayed Artemis I mission, a 10-minute countdown after Blackwell Thompson declared that it would finally launch from Cape Canaveral into space in the early hours of November 16. I took off. go to the launch. ”
After a successful launch and traveling millions of miles around the Moon, the Orion capsule is scheduled to touch down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California on Sunday, December 11, 25 days after launch.
From USAToday:NASA’s Orion flies over the Apollo landing site as the Artemis I mission nears its end.
After the rocket safely made it into deep space after days, months, and years of setbacks and challenges, Blackwell-Thompson returned home to South Carolina for a chance to talk about resilience, courage, and strength. I was. “The harder the climb, the better the view,” she told the team shortly after launch.
She credits her upstate upbringing with instilling values that have served her well in her life and career: hard work, caring for others, and the importance of family. and teamwork.
Related:NASA’s first female launch director leads countdown during Artemis mission to the moon
“It’s about all of us working together and supporting each other and lifting us up,” she said. and whether you’re leading a team or what you’re doing, those values enable us to do incredible things.”
The event honored six women who were judged to demonstrate the essential qualities of female leadership.
∎ courage: Cousins Sandra Proctor and Sierra Kelly provided leadership in responding to racist vandalism in Little African communities. Proctor is an educator and Kelly is a medical practitioner.
∎ faith: Latron McDaniel, entrepreneur and First Lady Missionary Baptist Church of Macedonia, for her work as founder and visionary of Live. smile. love. Experiences aimed at educating, empowering and encouraging women.
∎ Public Participation: Cindy Jackson-Kelly, Spartanburg Markets President of TNB Financial, for her work on the boards of numerous Spartanburg nonprofits.
∎ community: Anne Flynn for her extensive career in volunteerism and leadership with organizations in Spartanburg and beyond.
∎ leadership: Former South Carolina Representative Rita Allison for her long career as a civil servant and community activist.
Blackwell-Thompson has linked her work at NASA with that of the Laureate.
“One of my favorite parts of the launch countdown is the ‘go to launch’ step. It is a great honor and a blessing. It’s a very simple word, but it stands for so much more,” she said. “Thinking of the women who have been recognized here. I think you have shown, demonstrated and lived your version of Go. Go ‘go’ to make a difference. “Go” to launch your dream. “Go” to help someone else start their dream. That ‘going’ you live is making such a difference. ”