William M. Foster
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William M. Foster

Aerospace Engineer/Flight Controller

William M. Foster is the lead Space Shuttle Ground Control Officer (GC) at the Mission Control Center in Houston. He has worked as a contractor in Mission Control for thirty years, starting as a Research and Development Engineer for Ford Aerospace responsible for various MCC terminal systems. Due to changes in contracts, Foster progressed through several companies while moving into an engineering management role responsible for all network interfaces and console systems in the MCC. After 17 years in Engineering, he transferred into the GC Office, which is the senior operations position responsible for all MCC systems and networks. He currently works for Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc after various times with Bendix Field Enginerring Corporation, which became Allied Signal Technical Services Corporation, United Space Alliance, Lockheed Marten and Cimarron, Inc. According to Foster, the opportunity to work for a variety of companies without even trying is just one of the benefits of being a NASA contractor, but being part of history as humans continue in the early stages of reaching for the stars is the real attraction!

Bill Foster at the GC console in the White Flight Control Room (WFCR), the shuttle control room in Houston, during the STS-117 mission to the ISS in 2007.

Foster has supported all Space Shuttle missions since STS-90 in April 1998 from the GC console, and worked the Ascent/Entry shifts for all missions since STS-95 in October of 1998. He has been the lead Ascent/Entry GC for 38 missions and is currently scheduled to support all remaining missions in this capacity. Foster was recognized with a Silver Snoopy Award, the personal recognition from the Astronaut Corps in 2001. He was also picked to hang the plaque in the MCC after the STS-105 mission in August of 2001, an honor bestowed on the MVP of the Flight Control Team by the Lead Flight Director of each mission. He was recognized with a Spaceflight Awareness Award in 2003 and scheduled to go to KSC to see the launch of STS-114, scheduled to launch a month after STS-107. The trip was deferred until STS-115 so he could work the Return to Flight mission that STS-114 had become, but did not actually see the launch due to delays associated with a lightning strike on the pad two days prior to the planned launch. Foster was inducted into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels a few months after the Columbia accident in 2003 although still does not know why or by whom; the ornate certificate, signed by Paul E. Patton, the Governor of Kentucky, simply showed up at his desk one day. More recently, Foster was presented with the Foundations of Mission Operations Award by the Flight Director Office for technical excellencs and for being the “keeper of the traditions” in the MCC. This includes organizing the plaque hanging ceremonies, conducting tours for the public and visiting dignitaries and developing new methods of using MCC display systems to maintain a high level of situational awareness in the room during critical periods.


In 2003 Foster participated in the filming of Gene Kranz’ documentary “Failure Is Not An Option” for the History Channel, portraying an Apollo era Flight Controller. Not much air time, but a lot of fun to work on.

In 1999, Foster served as a technical advisor to Liz Radley, the Video & Computer Graphics Supervisor on the film Space Cowboys and through her, was introduced to Michael Okuda, who was the Scenic Art Supervisor and Technical Consultant for Star Trek productions at the time. Okuda began providing graphic support to Mission Control and Foster provided occasional technical advice or MCC graphics for the ongoing Star Trek productions. Following the Columbia accident in 2003, Foster and Okuda collaborated to create the Spaceflight Memorial Emblem, remembering the three crews lost in spacecraft related accidents in the United States. This emblem was included on the rear cover of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and was recently taken to the summit of Mount Everest by astronaut Scott Parazynski.

Bill Foster and Michael Okuda on the transporter pad on Enterprise NX-01. Okuda was providing Foster and several Flight Directors a tour of the Enterprise set back in 2004.

Based on the influence of Okuda’s artwork, Foster began creating emblems for all the active duty Flight Directors. Each Flight Director picks a color or symbol to represent their team, beginning with the first ones, Chris Kraft (RED Flight), Gene Kranz (WHITE Flight) and John Hodge (BLUE Flight). They have run out of useful colors to use so have moved on to constellations, elements and other names symbolic of the virtues they want to associate with their team. Providing a graphic to go with the team name has been another way to symbolize the traditions that Flight Controllers live by in supporting human spaceflight as the journey to the stars continues, albeit slower than preferred.

Bill Foster stands behind STS-114 Commander Eileen Collins following a training mission in one of the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) at Edwards Air Force Base in 2004 during preparations for the return to flight mission after the Columbia accident. Foster was part of a network team using the STA as a platform to simulate shuttle communications for the Dryden Tracking Station.

Foster plans to continue supporting as a GC for the ISS program following the end of shuttle missions, currently scheduled to happen in late 2010. He is hoping the program gets extended so the US continues to have the ability for heavy up mass and down mass for the ISS until such time as we have another viable way to perform this critical support function for the orbiting laboratory, and to continue to provide the US with access to low earth orbit for any other reason that might be required.

Foster on the bridge of the Enterprise with Captain Archer, thanks to Mike Okuda. He would normally not take guests up to cast members, but Scott Bakula had just had a private phone conversation with Mike Fincke on the ISS a few minutes earlier and when he found out there were people from Mission Control on the set, took us to the bridge and posed for photos.

Foster lives in La Porte, Texas with his wife of 25 years and two of his four children, the other two being married. He has a Bachelors Degree in Physics from the University of Houston Clear Lake focusing on Electro-Optics and is an Eagle Scout.