Alice Bowman

Alice Bowman - 2017 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

New Horizons Mission Operations Manager;
Space Mission Operations Group Supervisor
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, USA

Alice Bowman

Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: BA in Physics and Chemistry


The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were my early inspirations in choosing a career in space exploration. Today I lead the mission operations team that is essentially at the “helm” of the NASA spacecraft that flew through the Pluto system. We take input from the spacecraft engineers and scientists and translate this information into a set of computer commands that serve as instructions for the robotic, unmanned spacecraft. We establish the radio communications link with New Horizons, so we can send it commands and monitor the data it sends back on its condition, to make sure it’s safe and healthy. If something goes wrong on the spacecraft, we also lead the effort to learn what happened and fix the problem.

The biggest obstacle I faced was learning that critiques of my work are not critiques of me personally. I learned to welcome and seek out feedback. The members of our team work together to accomplish amazing things – we made history by carrying out the first spacecraft encounter with Pluto! It takes all of our expertise to make great things happen.

STEM classes can be quite challenging, so don’t be discouraged. Reach out to your peers and teachers for help; they are there for you. STEM requires a lot of work, but I have found that the excitement of my career was well worth the many nights spent studying. When times are rough, remind yourself of your dreams and remember why you are pursuing a STEM path — and look forward to the exciting career you will have for many years to come.

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