Felicia Gordon Sanders is a product of the Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) having attended Potomac and Roosevelt Elementary Schools, Emerson Junior High School, and graduating from East Bakersfield High School. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematical Sciences from the University of California Santa Barbara, with an emphasis in operations research and computer science. She has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA for over 30 years, and is currently a Mission Interface Manager for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN), a world-wide network of large antennas and communication facilities, located in the United States (California), Spain (Madrid), and Australia (Canberra), that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions.
Sanders describes her job as the interface between each spacecraft/flight project and the DSN. It is her responsibility to ensure that the spacecraft telecommunication system is well understood, so that once the spacecraft has launched, the DSN can successfully communicate with the spacecraft. She has personally managed the ground tracking interfaces between the DSN and many spacecraft missions, including three future NASA missions that will use the DSN. She has also served as Deputy Mission Interface Manager for Mars Science Laboratory’s entry, descent, and landing. One of the highlights of her career was being in the Space Flight Operations Facility the night of the Mars Curiosity landing.
Sanders has shared her experience many times with the students of the Bakersfield Chapter Links’ Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy, where she frequently volunteers as a speaker and resource provider. Through this program, she has introduced students and parents to NASA Curriculum, and even opened the door so that the students can take their annual field trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they have had the opportunity to meet and talk to scientists, and watch the development of the spacecraft team at work. She often shares her story of being a BCSD student and still considers Bakersfield to be her home.
When she isn’t working, or speaking with BCSD students, Sanders enjoys working in her garden, creating arts and craft projects, and reading. She also enjoys spending time with her family; her husband Albert Williams, daughter Danielle, son Reco and grandson Omar. Sanders currently resides in Pasadena, and visits her family in Bakersfield at least once a month.