I have been on the road a lot lately. We live in a relatively remote part of the nation. If we want to recruit support to our region in the emerging field of commercial space transportation, we have to hit the road like Paladin in “Have Gun Will Travel”. This was one of the first TV series with an anti-hero. Paladin, played by Richard Boone, was a hired gun. I loved that show. Most would not see Paladin as a traveling salesman, but maybe you will change your mind.
I go because there is work to do. In the case of large aerospace companies like Boeing, I traveled to meet the President of the Networks and Space Systems, Roger Krone. Mr. Krone will be speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Space Transportation (ISPCS) here in October. The Crew Space Transportation 100 (CST 100), is a crew capsule proposed by Boeing’s and Bigelow Aerospace as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. NASA is partnering with commercial companies to build the next space vehicles to take crew and cargo to the International Space Station.
There are few certainties in the world, here’s one. Mr. Krone was not going to walk in my door and offer to speak at ISPCS. I had to go hunt him down- figuratively. Mr. Krone understood, I am a hired gun, a salesperson. We are looking to grow the commercial space industry in our region. We believe it is necessary to include humans in this space era. Only 517 people have been to space since Uri Gagarin orbited earth in 1961. Until we put systems in place to put humans in space, the commercial space industry will grow slowly. The chance for a new transportation industry to evolve with all the innovation transportation industries spur is within our grasp. During his talk, Mr. Krone will examine partnerships Boeing has begun with commercial companies like Bigelow Aerospace. He specifically asked to tour Spaceport America. Cool!
That was one of over sixty meetings I had in the last six weeks off campus. Speaking of campus, I am grateful to work at New Mexico State University. State universities have gone through drastic downsizing in the last five years. NMSU is the state’s Land Grant institution. We are beginning to do some very interesting work because of Spaceport America and the commercial space industry. Yet, our story is untold. NMSU provides affordable higher education and does research to improve economic development in the state. Returning soldiers who have had experience with multiple space based technologies will be wise to look to state universities, including NMSU. The GI Bill has been one of the most successful pieces of legislation to enable ongoing national security. An economically prosperous nation is a secure nation.
I traveled to Tallahassee, the capital of the State of Florida last week. We were there to attend meetings at Florida State’s Universities’ Center for Advanced Aero Propulsion (FCAAP) as part of the work I do for the FAA Commercial Space division. We also attended the dedication of the new Aerospace Mechanical Engineering (AME). They started designing and raising funds for this facility six years ago. Florida’s space economy was booming then. Funds were provided for the building and for its lab facilities, including a Mach5 Hypersonic experimental facility. Yet, none of the wind tunnels were installed because of a six million in state budget cut. The Provost told me the dedication of the faculty and his administration leave no doubt the facilities will be finished soon.
The Air Force Academy is one of the nation’s premier and inspiring undergraduate institutions. They are engaged in both aeronautics and astronautics education. I toured their wind tunnel facilities, some of them built in the nineteen fifties. I met with faculty including the Dean of the Aero and Astro programs, Colonel Neil Barlow. Their dedication is permeates every aspect of their day. Colonel Barlow went to Central Elementary school.
What was my take away message? Why was I out on the road? All of us have the need to capture the same illusive fugitive – funding and support. Our nation benefits from the education we provide our students. Without exception, the administrators, faculty and staff at each of the institutions I visited are dedicated to their students. Many are hunting the same fugitives, education is expensive. I was building the posse for commercial space fugitives. Now I am going to get a manicure, gun slinging is so hard on my nails.