Most of us are by now familiar with the movie Hidden Figures, about how three black female mathematicians working for NASA did heroic deeds involving Mercury, Gemini, and ultimately Apollo 11. The move is a layered psyop, since, as most readers here know, Apollo 11 was merely a rocket ditched in the ocean, no human leaving low-earth orbit, much less setting foot on the moon. Ergo, no one did the complicated math needed to plot the trajectory, though I cannot say how complicated it is. However, no one, white, black or any other race did that math. I do not discriminate! It did not need to be done.
It’s a sophisticated ruse, however, because now, in addition to being Apollo deniers, we are also racists. This has to have entered into the sophisticated calculations of those planners behind the fake Apollo program in how they deal with critics and disbelievers – “Set them on their heels by making them defend themselves as bigots too!” They are doubling down.
This came to mind as I listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, a weekly NPR podcast that is often delightfully funny. This week’s interview was with Tiera Fletcher, said to be an African-American who is a key player in designing the alleged rocket ship that will allegedly take astronauts to Mars.
I transcribed the interview for your benefit. I leave it to the reader to form his own conclusions. I will see you in the comments below.
[“WWDTM” is one of either the host Peter Segel, or three panelists, Paula Poundstone, Roxanne Roberts, and Jordan Carlos.]
WWDTM: Tiera Fletcher grew up in Atlanta and wanted to be a rocket scientist. Most of us give that up once we learned it involved math. I but she took to it. In fact, she went to MIT and is now, at 24 years old, one of the lead engineers building the rocket that will hopefully take some of us to Mars. Tiera Fletcher welcome to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
Fletcher: Thank you.
WWDTM: So before we get to your current job, did I get that right, that you wanted to be a rocket scientist from very young age?
Fletcher: Yes from the age 11 I decided I wanted to be an aerospace engineer.
WWDTM: What inspired you to do that?
Fletcher: I actually had a program that’s my elementary school that introduced students to the fundamentals of aerospace engineering. I know that’s ridiculous. But, since the fourth grade, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer because of that program.
WWDTM: Wow, I love that! You went to MIT – that was a pretty impressive thing – and we’re told you graduated with a 5.0 average?
Fletcher: Yes. It was a very interesting time.
WWDTM: As far as we knew, the scale goes up to four. So how did you manage that?
Fletcher: So my parents always encouraged me to just reach beyond what’s expected of you. So I just worked hard, worked, oh my God, so many hours, late nights, and I just made it happen.
WWDTM: You just made so many parents feel like crap.
WWDTM: So you were like a nerd at MIT, which is already nerd heaven.
Fletcher: I tried to keep a good balance. I was involved in different student organizations – many of the cultural groups, the Black Students Union of MIT University, and also an African dance team. I tried to mix it up a little bit.
WWDTM: You probably understood the dynamics of the movement, which is almost cheating.
WWDTM: Did you say to the rest of the team like “no, you need a 25° angle at the knee?”
Fletcher: All of this.
WWDTM: Kids maybe drew airplanes and rocket ships or may be made paper airplanes and models, but you were not satisfied. You wanted to make them out of steel, and make them fly.
Fletcher: Exactly, and I wanted them to be pink, for sure pink. I’m still working on that part.
WWDTM: You were recruited by Boeing, right out of school, right? You went to work for them before you even graduated?
Fletcher: Correct. Yes.
WWDTM: So tell us what your job is.
Fletcher: So in I am a rocket structural engineer. What that means is that I design various parts of the rocket, analyze those parts, and I’m also doing manufacturing engineering as well to get all of those parts together into the rocket that you’ll see.
WWDTM: Because you’re a girl they did make you do the curtains?
Fletcher: Right. Yeah. I’m very happy that they did not make me do that.
WWDTM: So you’re actually designing the rocket engines. And everybody told us that the rocket that you are specifically working on is the one that’s gonna go to Mars. Is that correct?
Fletcher: That’s correct. First will be going to the moon, per the most recent charge from our vice president.
WWDTM: Oh, are you taking him to the moon?
WWDTM: Is it like a pit stop, to hit the moon before to Mars? What’s going on there?
Fletcher: We will be creating a NASA gateway and in order to get ready for longer missions such as Mars by establishing a habitat on the moon.
WWDTM: Right. You’re gonna do that first and then you want to go toMars from there.
WWDTM: Do you personally care about Mars?
Fletcher: I do. I do. I find it to be very exciting, just the point of exploring the unknown.
WWDTM: Are you guys going to go get the Rover back?
Fletcher: We could pick that up. We have to figure out payload…
WWDTM: It would be nice of us to clean up our messes.
WWDTM: You are a rocket scientist, literally. There is a part that is the absolute cliché for extraordinarily smart person. You know the phrase, “it’s not rocket science.” Do you intimidate people when they find out what you do for a living?
Fletcher: Well, a little bit I guess by the title, but I assure them… Many people can be rocket scientists.
WWDTM: That’s just not true. I mean, very pretty to think so, and I want everybody to be encouraged. But no!
WWDTM: Your husband is an astrophysicist, right?
Fletcher: He’s a rocket propulsion test engineer.
WWDTM: So you build the rockets, and he tests them?
Fletcher: Exactly. It’s so crazy, yes.
WWDTM: Wait a minute. That seems to me that it might provide cause for tension. What if you build an engine, he tests it, and it blows up? What’s dinner at home going to be like that night?
Fletcher: I have to be really careful with my designs because I know that my husband is going to be testing them. It’s a lot of pressure.
WWDTM: You ever say like, “Do you want more coffee?” And then “What’s your capacity?”
Fletcher: We do have those moments, unfortunately.
WWDTM: You mean like you do nerd humor with each other?
Fletcher: We have a ton of nerd humor.
WWDTM: So you at 24 are already designing the rockets that’s going to go to Mars. I imagine that would be the pinnacle of other people’s careers. So do you have goals, something to do before your finished?
Fletcher: I do. Of course I have my passion for rockets, but also I want to explore the side of planes as well.
WWDTM: So you want to design airplanes? Any particular kind of airplane?
Fletcher: I do love military aircraft. That was the exact type of aircraft that I fell in love with at first.
WWDTM: You were an 11-year-old girl and you loved, like, fighter jets?
Fletcher: Yes, like the F 35, B2, oh man.
WWDTM: I’m just imagining you at the age of 11, like playing with your friends, and they’re playing with their dolls, and your jet comes in and strafes the tea party.
WWDTM: Yhe F35 is the one that just takes straight up, right?
Fletcher: Yes. It has different variations.
At this point the interview is over and they go on to play a cute little game Not My Job. I stopped listening at that time.