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Roje Yap

Astronaut Flight Instructor
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Florida, USA

What is your name?

My name is Roje J. Yap (pronounced "ro-SHAY").

It's a Filipino name, and it actually belongs to my father.  He pronounces it "RO-hay".  It's a combination of ROsalinda and JEsus (my grandparents).

When dad passed the name on to me, I decided to pronounce it differently so as to distinguish myself from him.

Where are you from?

I was born in New York, New York, but grew up in Tucson, Arizona.

I now live and work in Houston, Texas.

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I received my bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona.  Right out of school, I moved to Houston, Texas, and started working for the Rockwell Space Operations Company, which later became the United Space Alliance.

For five years, I worked on the Space Shuttle's computer software, making sure that certain parts of it continued to work properly after programmers had reconfigured it to achieve specific mission objectives.

I then became an Astronaut Flight Instructor at NASA's Johnson Space Center and have been doing that now for six years.  To date, I have helped train four Shuttle crews:

(May '97):
6th Shuttle mission to the Mir Space Station
(Nov. '97):
Microgravity science mission
(May '99):
2nd Shuttle mission to the International Space Station, which delivered supplies and equipment
(Apr. '01):
9th Shuttle mission to ISS, which installed Canadarm2

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I play violin for a community orchestra.  I enjoy a good game of softball and bowling.  I also enjoy reading.

What is your job title and what does it mean?

As an Astronaut Flight Instructor, I am one of a vast team of instructors who help teach the U.S. astronauts how to fly the Space Shuttle.  Specifically, I teach them what they need to know about the Shuttle's propulsion and flight control systems.  This includes the main and orbital engines, the maneuvering jets, and the mechanisms that make the Shuttle fly like an airplane.  There are other instructors who specialize in the Shuttle's other systems.

Why did you become an Astronaut Flight Instructor?

Being an Astronaut Instructor is the fulfillment of a childhood dream to be a part of the US Space Program.  In helping the astronauts prepare for their Shuttle missions, I know that what I say and do on a daily basis directly contributes to their successfully completing those missions which, in turn, advances humanity's exploration of space.

Roje instructs in
the shuttle cockpit.
Roje in the cockpit

What is the most fun part of your job?

When I am training the astronauts using the Shuttle Mission Simulator, I am playing the best role-playing game ever, using the best video game in town!  I am actually being paid to be sneaky and mean, as I challenge the astronauts and help them learn more about my particular system.  I have to say, though, that the best part of the job is having the astronauts know me by name and personally thanking me for helping them go safely to and from space.

Roje with some of
the members of the
STS-96 crew (from left:
Kent Rominger, Ellen
Ochoa, Rick Husband)

What do you think is the toughest thing you have to teach astronauts how to do?

The type of training we instructors put the astronauts through is quite extensive.  I have often heard the training being compared to drinking out of a fire hose!

When they are first selected, we expose the astronauts to practically every system aboard the Shuttle.  We do this through classroom briefings, mission simulations, and one-on-one discussions.  After they complete their "basic training" while they wait for a mission assignment, we help them hone their knowledge through proficiency lessons.  When they are finally assigned to fly, we fine tune their knowledge, as well as train them on the specific tasks they will actually perform.

It all seems quite overwhelming.  But in the end, when they light up the sky during launch, successfully accomplish everything they set out to do to advance humanity's understanding of outer space, and return safely home, all the long, hard hours of training become worth the effort.

Seeing all the training that the astronauts have to do, would you like to be an astronaut?

Sadly, I am not qualified to be an astronaut, because I went through LASIK eye surgery.  There's a concern that the conditions of space could cause the flaps in my eyes to open.  However, the U.S. Air Force has recently allowed its pilots to undergo LASIK.  NASA may soon follow suit.  Should that happen, who knows?

Do you train both Pilots and Mission Specialists? If so, how is the training different for each?

I primarily work with both the commander and the pilot, as well as the mission specialists assigned to the flight deck during ascent and entry.  While I teach them all the same material, how they actually apply that knowledge varies.

During critical phases of flight (for example, during ascent), responsibilities are divided amongst the astronauts -- the commander ensures the vehicle is performing as intended; the pilot monitors the health of the various systems; the mission specialists back up the commander and the pilot, as well as keep the "big picture" of how the different systems affect one another.  This division of responsibilities is what we call Cockpit Resource Management (or CRM).  So, not only do I help the crew members develop their technical knowledge of the Space Shuttle, I also help them determine how best to use that knowledge and communicate it with each other.

- 20 May 2001


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Last Updated:
25 March 2002

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