NOTE/PREFACE (added December 19, 2020)
This article/blog was written when I was still looking for a corporate job. I am now in the last corporate job I will ever have. I will grow my side business for the next 5 or so years and when it can support my family I will ride off into the sunset of bliss. Corporate America has been very good to me and I plan on ending my relationship in a manner befitting long-term lifelong friends.
The Original Article/Blog:
Quotes and events from my childhood (some from reruns or history as I was not around for original release, occurrence, or publication):
“Space: the final frontier… To boldly go where no one has ever gone before!” Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise (Star Trek)
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” Neil Armstrong (NASA)
“First shuttle in space…” Columbia (NASA)
“We have come to visit you in peace, with good will.” Klaatu (The Day The Earth Stood Still)
“That perfected machines may one day succeed us is, I remember, an extremely commonplace notion on Earth.” Pierre Boulle (Planet of the Apes)
“I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L Plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January, 1992” HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey)
“Freeze! Watching alloys change from liquid to solid could lead to better metals” International Space Station (NASA)
“Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.” The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
“New Mars discoveries are advancing the case for possible life on the red planet, past or even present.” (Technology, 2018)
The birth of a space nerd:
From science fiction to science fact I remember watching my first space movie, reading my first space novel, and hearing/seeing science’s forays into space. When I was 8 years old my parents gave me a second hand telescope they bought at a garage sale. Although it was a small step above a cardboard tube with polished lids of aluminum cans for mirrors and polished coke bottle bottoms for lenses, it was my prized possession. For the next several years I would read about when the next observable event in space or the stars would occur and I would scheme how I could get to the highest roof in Chicago or an open cornfield in the suburbs to view a planet, an eclipse, a constellation, a meteor shower, whatever the event might be. I wanted to be an astronaut or better yet a crew member on a space ship somewhere in the far reaches of space. I wanted to meet aliens friendly and warlike. I wanted to experience the final frontier.
A budding rock star (or a pause in space nerdom):
Then I reached the age 14 and discovered music and guitar. Sure, I played clarinet and piano starting at age 10 but that was more of a chore. It was a parent directed endeavor to broaden my horizons which for me simply detracted from my passion for science fiction and fact. But at 14, the guitar, music composition, rock bands, and rock stardom dominated my life for 7 years. Sure, I still paid attention to all things space and science fiction… and I became a Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, and so on fanatic but rock stardom became my dream. So much so that my last band decided to “go for it”… we had regional success but my bandmates told me they were going to college at the last possible moment. Luckily, I got in on late enrollment at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (the birthplace (albeit fictionally) of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey). For the first two years I experimented with various music related majors only to realize that they all prepared me to do one of four things: teach music in K through 12, become a member of a symphony orchestra, be a recording engineer, or teach music theory in college. At that time in my life I had no desire to do any of those things. And so, as happens throughout life, I acquiesced to being a music lover and composer for a hobby and put a headstone on my rock star dreams.
The slow rebirth of space nerdom:
When my rock star dreams died I had to figure out what the heck to do with my college years. Four things happened that influenced my decision: the SolarMax was launched, the shuttle program became all the rage with NASA, The Empire Strikes Back was released AND I found out that UICC was number one in the world in electrical engineering at that time. I thought, “maybe I can’t be a rock star, maybe I can’t be an astronaut, or member of a crew on a spaceship BUT I can help make that happen as an engineer.” And so began my journey to get an electrical engineering degree and then get a job with NASA, Boeing, Hughes, or the U.S. Air Force.
Fast forward two years and I got my first job as an engineer at Boeing’s Kent Space Center. I worked on the IUS which helped launch satellites, shuttles, and other things space related. I acquired my first Celestron telescope (a Orange Tube C8) and my space nerd was reborn. In the early 90s I moved to the commercial side of Boeing but the first program was the 747 so I didn’t completely lose my space connection. 747s helped carry and launch some shuttles for NASA. Science fiction and science fact were close companions once again.
Historically, the shuttle disasters occurred, NASA lost its focus and drive, and space took a back seat publicly but never took a back seat in my mind. I still geeked out on science fiction and science fact and loved all things space related.
Professionally, I slowly drifted away from space going into information technology, semiconductors, gaming, energy, and so on. But hobby-wise I kept upgrading my telescopes, bought a lego Mars explorer which hooked up to my computer, kept abreast of everything lunar, Mars, sun, and space… In the summer of 2001 in late July I was able to watch the launch of an Atlas II and a Delta II from afar through a telescope. These were two of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. A friend of mine, also a space nerd, moved to Cocoa Beach and bought a condo right on the ocean facing Cape Canaveral with the desire to see launches from her Atlantic ocean facing deck. Little did she know that her dream had rekindled my dream. And so, my desire is to also move to the Florida coast in order to see the advances in space travel in a more intimate fashion.
My space nerd credentials were alive with no place to go. But wait what is that I hear in the distance?
The Super Nova of Dreams shoots back to Science Fiction to Science Fact:
In 2000 there were little stories here and there about a company in Kent, Washington named Blue Origin that was going to something with space exploration. And then in 2002, SpaceX was started but most stories were about satellite launches and not about rockets and exploration. And finally, The Spaceship Company (TSC) later to become part of Virgin Galactic and the chatter became about commercial flights into “space”. The seed of my dream was reborn. I would scour the internet for new advances in space travel. The 3 aforementioned companies kept moving forward, NASA started partnerships with them, Boeing, and other companies.
Decades passed, I continued to look at the career sites of all companies who had fingers in the pie that is space exploration and travel. I applied to positions here and there for which I believed I was qualified.
And then the world changed... COVID 19 happened and millions of people lost their jobs. Aerospace companies continued posting job requisitions for roles for which I had expertise. I read them, my breath quickening, my heart pounding, and I once again see (or more viscerally FEEL) a possible fulfillment to my life long dream. Holy “Do androids dream of electronic sheep, Batman?”… Can I once again leverage my skills to help the future of space exploration? Start realizing the dreams of my and many others' childhoods?
Here we are today… space exploration is a reality. Dreams still can come true.
In the words of the great philosophers of the 20th century (Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (songwriting team of the group Abba)) [NOTE: Lyric modified to reflect my plea more directly]:
If you make up your mind, I'm the first in line, I'm still free, Take a chance on me, Gonna be around, If you need someone, when you look around, Take a chance on me.
If you've got no one to hire, when you're feeling down, If you're all alone, when the pretty ships have flown, I'm still free, take a chance on me, gonna do my very best, and it ain't no lie, if you put me to the test, if you let me try, take a chance on me, that's all I ask of you, take a chance on me.
Lyric by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus (c) 1977
I will end this open letter with one last request. Even if you are not willing to take a chance on me even though I hope you will... I ask that you take a chance on someone. You will know who we are. We will be the candidate who may not have what you see as the "right" experience and skills OR too much but you can feel the excitement in our bellies. How rabid and eager we are to work with your company. You know we will give you all the proverbial 110% and will jump up and down at your company's every success (no matter how small) and will devote all of our energy and brain power to solve any issue that comes up (no matter how small).