Exclusive: NASA’s first female flight director, Holly Ridings, talks making history, human spaceflights, growing up in Amarillo


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Millions around the world watched as NASA launched it’s first crewed orbital spaceflight from U.S. soil. The woman behind that historic mission was, Amarillo’s very own, Holly Ridings.

“Everyone tuned in and it gave some focus around a positive event,” Ridings told KAMR Local 4 News.

Ridings serves as the Chief Flight Director of Human Spaceflight at NASA, making her the first female to ever hold the prestigious position.

“As the Chief Flight Director for Human Spaceflight at Nasa, I am responsible for the operations of all of Nasa’s Human Spaceflight programs,” Ridings explained. “So you can think about mission control in Houston as the hub of human spaceflight.”

Hundreds of miles from where Ridings is currently breaking glass ceilings, is where her interest in space took off. When Holly was just 12, she witnessed a historical event that would help write her story.

“I was in the sixth grade when we lost the Challenger actually,” Ridings added. “I watched that happen live and it had a huge impact on me. You know, that really scared them but for me, I always wanted to make things better so that was the catalyst for the teachers that were encouraging and then watching that event.”

Then 33 years later, on May 30, 2020.

“That was our partnership with Space X where we launched U.S. Astronauts. So, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were are two astronauts that flew on the Dragon. I was in the back on mission control when we launched, and when we docked, doing my job as the Chief Flight Director.

And Ridings knows all too well that hard work pays off.

“I have an eight year old son and you know a lot of it is resilience but when you say the word resilience to an eight year old or older it’s like ‘what do you mean?’,” Ridings added. “So, you know it’s just focusing on working hard.”

If you’re wondering if Ridings will ride into space herself one day …

“I love my job, it is amazing, you know, this is absolutely my niche but at the same time if someone said, ‘hey would you want to take a ride on my rocket?'” … “absolutely right,” she explained.

To see a Ridings talk about why Big Texan is her go-to spot when she comes home, watch below.

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