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Date:  April 20, 2018

New Careers In Space

A young person asked me the other day about careers in space. There’s always exploration – astronaut training as mission specialists all the way up the capability level to actual commander of a space craft. But what struck me was that the possibilities for millions of jobs are quickly forming in fields that no-one previously ever thought could possibly interest anyone except technocrats.

With the commercialization of space (see previous articles), weekly launches of everything from small satellites, communications satellites, test missions, deep space probes, International Space Station ferrying of people and supplies, and, yes, SpaceX’s launch of a car into a solar orbit that exceeds the Mars orbit occasionally – all these point the way to a growing industrial demand – a demand for money, technology and qualified, dedicated people.

But let’s not forget transportation either. Currently there are six programs running to design and test a hop into space with passengers aboard, let the earth spin under the craft, and come down a few hours later half-way around the globe.

Then there are the scientists working away with new materials to help us move the human race into space. Nano tubes strung out in one nearly unbreakable chord that can be anchored to Earth and the other end counterbalanced 46,000 miles into space in a straight line making an elevator cable... going up?

Then there are the support jobs for space exploration activities – after all people have to eat and live somewhere. Let’s look at Kern Country and Fresno Country in California. Mojave Flight Test Center is there (where Branson’s Virgin Galactic is situated). Meanwhile Fresno houses some of the builders of the Shuttles and other spacecraft. In 1981 when the first Shuttle flew, there were under 600,000 people living in those two counties. Today there is a growing population of over 2,000,000, 40% of whom work for or in relation to Aerospace industries.

SpaceX is building a new launch center on Cape Canaveral bringing 5,000 new jobs and perhaps as many as 20,000 additional jobs to the region. Multiply that by the number of space companies rapidly expanding nationwide and the Dept. of Commerce estimates an annual job rate growth of just over 15% related to space exploration and technologies alone. And they are not counting schools, day-care, restaurants, builders, etc.

So, back to the question: where are the space jobs going to be? From a short term point of view, go to where these companies are based and talk to the HR team, find out what they want and then get the right education to match. They need skilled plastic bonding experts? Learn that in college. They need wiring technicians? They need maintenance engineers? They need security people? They need painters? They need caterers? Sign up, learn the trade. Those jobs will be solid and in demand.  When expanding, companies cannot afford to discard qualified people. And, because they are in a hurry to succeed, they pay well too.

Oh, and long term? Astrophysics and astronomy seem the most lucrative and promising career. Yes, astrophysics helps with orbital insertion and flight profiling. Solid, demanding work. Want something a little more long-term and beneficial to humankind? Think like Magellan, Humboldt, Arthur C. Clarke and stretch the mind... think astronomy and exoplanets. So far we know of 3,767 confirmed planets around other solar systems. That number is about to explode when TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) settles into orbit and begins sending back data. It only has a two year mission but during that time will scan over 200,000 stars closest to Earth. Want to guess how many planets it will uncover? And here’s the bombshell for all your job seekers... it is expected that TESS will be able to detect water on those planets. Think about that and begin your job hunting there... you’ll be involved in space exploration in no time.