Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.
My early introduction to computers started with a college summer job in 1968 at the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO), our equivalent of El Paso Electric. Punch cards were just starting to be used on their payroll system and I was told, oh boy, I could have a job converting customer records in the future to the punch card system. I studied programming at NMSU but as with the LILCO job, I was not interested in what we were asked to do in programming class. The work computers were tasked with in those days was not of interest to me. I wanted a career, not a job. I was a bit lonely in this pursuit.
Three year later I started working at the Las Cruces Sun News. I worked with phototypesetting, an early version of computerized typesetting. The punch card tape system allowed the computer to read a tape, the program then converted light pulses into text that was read through a film strip, photographed and then printed out on photosensitive paper to create ad copy or news story copy. A large camera then photographed each page we created, a metal plate was burned/etched and that image was offset onto the printed page that became our daily newspaper. Every day we manufactured a product and distributed it to thousands of people. The product was information.
Everything about the manufacturing process was exciting. I was curious about it all, typesetting, ad design, photographic processing, offset printing, it was hard, fast paced and multi-faceted. I did not know it at the time, but I was in the newspaper business at the beginning of its decline. I In 1978, two years after I started my advertising agency I bought a used phototypesetter. I began working in what is now called desk top publishing. In 1988, one of the reasons I sold my business was because re-tooling would have been necessary to adjust to the digital computer industrialization of the print industry, and the rapidly growing information technology industry.
I was lucky that one of my customers during this time was the NMSU Dean of the College of Engineering, Derald Morgan. We were birds of a feather. He could not focus on one thing anymore than I could. He was curious about everything. Derald asked me to attend a class on how to use a pager, he also liked connectivity. The user interface was terrible, it was not intuitive and the device was ugly.
When Steve Jobs spun out the product vision for the MacIntosh, his ideas were way out of the main stream. He wanted a machine that was a work of art, was intuitive to use, not a programmer’s dream, but an everyday user’s cool tool. Steve’s Reality Distortion Field discussions were fierce battles that eventually led to his firing from the company he founded. Yet, these same fierce rants pushed his team to create the Apple products we use today.
Some of us are made to work difficult projects. Fortunately the team working to support students to design, build and fly experiments to space is growing in our community. Jobs understood people have to use a product and like it quickly, then they will use it and figure out more ways for it to change their lives.
Gaining mastery over the process of going to space and using the spaceport requires we use the launch vehicle we have with UP Aerospace and we use the spaceport. UP Aerospace can be easy to use. But Spaceport America is not easy to use right now. First we have to use the spaceport. A lot! It is beautiful. And it will get easier to use with the road. As we grow the capability of this facility, bring in more operators and use the one we have right now, we must retain the beauty of the site.
A final thought on the big picture that governs the space transportation industry. Our spaceport is part of the commercial space transportation industry. The states and federal government invest in our country’s transportation industry, including its airports, rails and roads and sea ports. It is time for the State of New Mexico to accept the reality that in order for Spaceport America to be successful as a transportation facility, it must be an active partner and investor for many more years. Our Congressional delegation must get on board as well. We are creating a transportation industry in New Mexico. This is a state and federal concern. We cannot expect Spaceport America to do this work alone.