I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. I can tell already people are anticipating the season. Fred Rodgers, said anticipation is the pleasure of enjoying the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending. I am lucky to share my anticipation of a pre-holiday season event with you. The story includes NMSU students who are exhausted right now because it is exam time. Yet, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the holidays. I remember when I’d come home from college for the holidays. Neither I nor my parents realized how stressful exams and long hours plus travel and transition back to home were. I am sending a request from the trenches. Let them sleep, here’s why. Keep reading.
On November 5th we will launch of one of our technologies to space from the spaceport. I am writing this article on Thursday, November 4th. I am finally able to anticipate getting up at 2:30am with joy again. Now that I am rested from ISPCS, I can enjoy this launch tomorrow. My students are also getting up at this hour to meet me at Sam’s. They are not rested. Launches are early to avoid wind. It’s a 2 hour drive in the dark to the spaceport. We will stand in the cold outside. Just about dawn the countdown will begin. A 16 foot rocket at dawn with our rising sun against the background of the mountains, can you see it? This is New Mexico, our Land of Enchantment.
These moments are why I work so hard for this industry. This I am anticipating with joy. I am once again with people who love our industry with a passion that inspires my continued commitment. For example, the owners of the rocket company, Unlimited Possibilities (UP) Aerospace bring their grandchildren to the launches. This family has hosted our NMSU experiments and technologies on every rocket except one. They always welcome students, all of them, with open arms. NASA Flight Opportunities personnel will be on site, and so will FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation personnel. And of course, Bill Gutman from Spaceport America is always at every launch, even our model rocket launches. He’s there, and likely Lou Gomez will be there too. The team I’ve been working with for over 20 years. Still standing or still crazy after all these year. I hardly ever see them except at launches. When we get on site, it’s our world. Cold, dark, dramatic. What’s to come? The launch of student experiments to space. This is the 10th time for a commercial launch. Well over 100 experiments that have made it to space from the spaceport. This is the grass roots of the space industry. Yet, every time it’s different. New people and old friends, donuts, maybe coffee and with UP Aerospace, success. These are the entrepreneurs who made a rocket company after a long series of model rocket events they participated in as hobbyists. Now, we are beneficiaries of their passion. I hope the student catch this. They are all native New Mexicans.
Why do I say success, I could jinx it? Well, anticipation is always colored by the knowledge there is no success until the rocket payload section is down on White Sands, found and recovered. Then we still don’t know what type of data the students who build our experiment will get. We have flown this technology once already, most of it flies in the nose cone of the rocket. The experiment is testing an algorithm that predicts the momentum of a spacecraft more accurately than current methods. The algorithm and the technology could save fuel on a satellite. Saving fuel extends satellite life. Fuel is gold in space. If the technology is proven on the space station, then it may be gold for the developers. We want them to remember NMSU. There is a vision we hold for our commercial space industry, anticipation for the future requires we invest in the present. We are doing just that.