New Shuttle Manager Says He Faces Huge Challenges

Bill Parsons knew when he watched a shuttle launch in 1985 that he wanted to be part of the shuttle program.

"When I was standing there feeling the shuttle just beat against my chest as it rose in the air and just watching it take off, I don't know, it's just an inspiring experience."

Parsons has seen the highs of the program, and now three months after Columbia fell out of the sky the 46-year old Pike County native takes over the shuttle leadership during one of its low points.

"I probably haven't gotten my arms around it quite yet. We need to have the Columbia accident investigation board complete their investigation and give us the findings."

Parsons says right now he has no real insight as to the status of the investigation of the Columbia disaster. He says that's why one of the first things he'll be doing is getting updated on that investigation and getting the space shuttle flying once again.

The tentative timeline for another shuttle blast off is between late fall and early next year. Parsons says the earlier the better because the shuttle is critical to the mission of the international space station.

"For us to be able to fully put the personnel on the international space system, the three person crew and to also continue the assembly, which we need to finish, to do that you have to have the shuttle."

Parsons says he is humbled that he, a man from small town Mississippi will help get the shuttle flying safely again.

"The people who've come from Mississippi have achieved so many thing and I'm just an expample of a good ole boy from Mississippi done good and I'm just very, very proud to have this as my home state."

Parsons new job will take him to the Johnson Space Center in Houston where he says he looks forward to reviving an important part of the space program.

As the new space shuttle manager, Parsons replaces Ron Dittemore. Dittemore was NASA's main spokesperson after the shuttle Columbia broke apart over the skies of Texas in February. Mike Rudolphi is now the interim director of the Stennis Space Center until a new director is named.