In Boulder, Colorado, a group of students are working now at jobs of the future. They are building satellites and rockets, turning what has been something they previously only read about into a hands-on experience.
More than 100 Colorado high school students and college students from across the country have spent the summer building six high-powered rockets and 20 payloads. Four of the payloads were developed by college interns at Ball Aerospace, as part of the BIRST (Ball Intern Rocket Scientist Team) program.
High school students from Colorado built the other 16 payloads. The payloads will be launched Saturday on rockets made by college students from across the country who are working as interns for United Launch Alliance.
NASA currently is working on technology to take us deeper into space and travel to a variety of destinations, including asteroids, Earth’s moon, the moons of Mars, and eventually Mars itself. These students also are working on technologies to take their work into space. This summer is preparing them for the future, both theirs and ours as a nation.
These students are the future workers, designers, builders and engineers (and, yes, taxpayers) for commercial rockets going to the ISS and NASA-built deep-space exploration vehicles going to asteroids and Mars. Tomorrow’s space program is taking shape right now, and these students are training for those jobs of the future. Many of the jobs they will do haven’t been invented yet – but they are prepared to do those jobs when they exist.
NASA is departing from the model of the past, in which the government funded all space activities. To succeed, we want more than one human spaceflight provider to accommodate all of the needs we anticipate in the future. We need robust redundancy, so to speak, and we want it to be American-made. And with the success of multiple commercial partners, it frees up NASA to do the hard things, like travel to an asteroid and Mars.
This month, for the first time, we put a spacecraft, Dawn, into orbit around an asteroid. Later this year, we will launch spacecraft to Jupiter, our moon, and Mars. These missions are precursors to sending people there. What we learn from each of these missions helps us build a future where humans travel throughout the solar system.
We are building the crew vehicle that will take us there in the not-so-distant future. The President has charged us with the goal of landing humans on an asteroid by 2025. That’s a tough mission, but it is the kind of challenge that NASA does best.
We are working to help build the economy of the future, with a robust commercial space market and the opportunity to travel to space for anyone. In fact, we just signed an agreement with ULA to share data on the potential for human rating a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle as part of the Commercial Crew Development program.
NASA’s future is bright. So is the future for these students getting hands-on experience this summer. The jobs of the future are innovative, involve cutting-edge technologies, and will lead to exciting and challenging missions. Most of all, it’s what makes this country great.