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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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From classroom to mission control

Photo by Photo by Annie Lui

The guiding voice of that entire mission heard through every television and radio was Josh Byerly, Aggie Class of 1999.

On February 24, 2011 NASA’s final launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery was broadcast on television internationally. The guiding voice of that entire mission heard through every television and radio was Josh Byerly, Aggie Class of 1999.
Byerly worked for NASA from August of 2007 and even served as the leading Public Affairs Officer and one of the “voices of NASA” from Mission Control for the Johnson Space Center in Houston before retiring in 2014.
Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, Byerly attended the same school from kindergarten to high school graduation before enrolling at Texas A&M in 1995. Having originally intended to study at the University of Texas, Byerly switched his admission to Aggieland after visiting campus.
“I stepped on campus and just instantly knew that was it,” Byerly said. “It’s just an unspoken way that [A&M] welcomes people.”
During his four years at A&M, Byerly was involved in the 12th Man Student Foundation, worked as a DJ for Brazos Valley’s Mix 104.7 and eventually interned and worked at KBTX News, where he was as a reporter, anchor and producer for KBTX News 3 until moving to Dallas, Texas in 1999.
It was in Dallas where Byerly worked for a public relations firm and then another corporation in the department of employee communications. He remembers speaking with one of his supervisors at Flowserve who contributed to his decision to apply for a position at NASA.
“He sat me down and asked, ‘Josh, what do you want to do if you could have any job in the world?’ And he made me think about it,” Byerly said. “And I wrote down ‘Public Affairs Officer for NASA’.”
After submitting a job application and resume to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Byerly received a call from NASA requesting an interview and eventually hired the A&M graduate into the Public Affairs department.
“People always ask me, ‘How did you get the job?’ and my answer is: ‘I have no idea’,” Byerly said. “I’ve never had a plan. I just went for it and took advantage of things and threw caution to the wind for a little bit and I’ve just been incredibly lucky.”
Throughout his time at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Byerly served as a “voice of NASA” for a number of space shuttle and International Space Station missions including the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery in 2011.
Byerly described his preparation for every space mission as similar to “working on a term paper” and said that he currently still owns a number of three-inch binders full of detailed information about each individual mission he provided commentary for.
Aside from spending weeks in advance studying for missions, Byerly also added that each of the three NASA commentators assigned to a mission spent a total of nine and a half hours on-air.
“It’s like learning to dance,” Byerly said. “There’s a certain pace that the countdown happens with, there’s certain things that happen when the shuttle is launching and the crew is calling down to mission control at a certain time. So you learn to know that rhythm.”
Byerly said he remembers being so nervous for the launch of space shuttle Discovery that he does not actually remember much of it and that his family likely recalls more of the event than he could.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but ironically, I don’t actually remember that much of it,” Byerly said. “I’d been on television for a lot of my career and you get used to it. I was never nervous, but when I did the [Discovery] space shuttle launch and landing, it was legitimately nerve wracking.”
During his time as the Johnson Space Center’s Public Affairs Officer and Spokesman, Byerly often worked with former chief of the Office of Communications for Kennedy Space Center, Trent Perrotto. During the beginning of their friendship, Perrotto was Byerly’s counterpart and Spokesman for the NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“It’s as cool and as hard as you’d think it’d be,” Perrotto said. “I think we’re both really proud of the time we put in there and we have pretty fond memories.”
Perrotto now works for Honeywell International Inc., where Byerly is also currently working. Byerly and Perrotto both see their decision to leave NASA as one for the future since they’d both achieved more than they ever wanted in their careers.
Lifelong friend of Byerly and A&M graduate, Scott Muse reflected on the legacy of the former NASA spokesman and said that Byerly went above just achieving his goals.
“It’s a bit surreal to see him honored in the Smithsonian [Museum],” Muse said. “I guess you could say he’s carved out a little bit of history of which he’s a part. He’s a great example of someone who had a goal and worked relentlessly to go achieve it. And then when he achieved it, he didn’t just get there, he really conquered it in a way to leave a positive impact on his profession.”
Byerly said he looks back on his career not as a job but as an “adventure” everyday as he spent his days learning and explaining the complex missions NASA conducted during his term there.
“You’re taking the work of the smartest people in the world and some very highly complex scientific things and having to explain them to the general public,” Byerly said. “I almost failed physics at Texas A&M and here I am reporting physics on NASA television.”
Byerly currently works as Honeywell International’s director of global public relations, where he has worked since leaving the Johnson Space Center in 2014. Byerly’s voice can be heard providing explanation and commentary of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final launch and even in an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution Museum in Washington, DC.

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