It took ten years. I finally attended the International Space University’s Executive Management course last week. I heard about the Executive Management course from Michael Simpson, President of the ISU, and from Peter Diamandis, an ISU co-founder. They both encouraged me to attend this course, during the XPRIZE Cup and my symposium. First and foremost, this course is held in Strasbourg, France. The expense for the course tuition and travel was well beyond my means in those days. But more important, I did not think I could handle it academically. I was right, I’d only been involved in the space industry as a career for six years. I was still too new, there are many fields within the space industry I had to learn.
My bachelor’s degree is in English. Space, astronomy mostly, was a field I was interested in as a kid. Who doesn’t have a telescope? Most kids look at the stars. But I never thought space would be a career. By the time I sold my business in 1988, I had been through two recessions. When the check cleared I was ready for something different, and I got it. I was fortunate to work on a project in the College of Engineering that led to my current position. I worked with Dr. Frank Carden on the start-up of the Telemetry Center in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. I studied Latin, so I understood generally the root tele- means distance. Telemetry is distance communication, an expertise that put NMSU on the “map” back in the sixties. It was Dr. Carden who developed the capability for NASA to send video signal, telemetry, back from the moon during the Apollo program.
Knowing the definition of one simple word led me on a long journey into the field I am working in today. Early on in this work, I felt like an immigrant to the space community. Sort of like a newcomer to the United States. When I attended my first technical conference, very serious men marched on stage with boxes of overhead slides. Oyyee. I knew they were speaking English, but I understood very little. It was brutal. I felt like I was at a Foreign Film Festival. The actors were speaking French, and the subtitles were in Polish. I could not follow the speeches, and could not understand the overheads, a series of charts and diagrams describing systems in terms I could not translate. Swell. Great start!
Over the years, I had to teach myself a great deal of the language of science and engineering. I refused to give up. Most of what I learned was so interesting it beat anything else I had done so far in my life. I learned so much, the people in the field of engineering not only work on difficult technical problems, but they also discuss large philosophical problems. Engineers work to improve the lives of humans. I found common ground with the people in Electrical Engineering. In the late eighties they were working on setting up large systems to enable thousands of students to use computers on the campus here at NMSU. It was like being on campus when the telephone system was first installed. Dr. Javin Taylor was the Department Head of Electrical Engineering. I knew him through the Los Amigos Del Vino wine club. He had a great deal of patience with me. He and Joe Denk included me in conversations where they discussed whether computing should be available on campus like electricity, or controlled, like almost the food service. You paid every time you used computing services. Looking back on those days, again I feel so grateful to be a part of the university community.
It was time finally, for me to test myself outside my comfort zone. I attended the Executive Management Course. I wanted to know could I hold my own with people who work as Managers for SES, a telecommunications satellite operator, or people who worked for the European Space Agency. Would I be able to understand orbital mechanics, and remote sensing technical discussions? All of these subjects involve telemetry. We discussed orbits for navigation satellites and their related band width in the electromagnetic spectrum. It was a Goldilocks week. Not too hard, not too easy, it was just right. Now I feel like I am a citizen in the technical community. I am glad I waited. There are still plenty of challenges out there. Right now, getting over the jet lag is rewarding enough.