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Introducing Careers Ad Astra!

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Photo credit: NASA | a star is born

The Latin phrase, ad astra, is commonly invoked within the space community. The translation is "to the stars." For those of us who have dedicated our lives to promoting the use of space and technology development for space, this simple phrase gets to the heart of our passion and why we get out of bed every morning. There is a publication by that name, dedicated to informing an already interested public with the latest news and opinions and I have seen it scrawled across the autographed picture of more than one astronaut. Ad astra is something of a rallying cry. But there is a longer version of this phrase: Per aspera ad astra. It translates to "through hardships to the stars." And it is this longer phrase that inspires me the most.

There are a couple reasons why I prefer the full phrase over the truncated version. First, it reminds me of Kennedy's speech, during which he declared that the US chooses to go to the Moon; Not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And across the globe, governments and private companies push the envelope, strive for excellence, and sometimes accomplish the impossible. There have certainly been failures along the way. Some are tragic while others are head slapping and many see redemption. Through all these hardships, the vision has been honed and the focus narrowed so that we, the space community, continue toward the stars, sobered but undeterred.

The second is more personal. My career journey has been very much my own. For me, part of the problem has been identifying what a career in space would look like. I have a technical background, but it is not in engineering. I cannot tell you how many interviews I have been on where the hiring manager was confused about why I decided to take a break from genetics research to build rockets. So, a good chunk of my journey up to this moment has been figuring out precisely what I wanted to do within the space sector. I have no shame in my journey. It has taught me so much about myself and the world around me. I am proud of how I carved a career out seemingly nothing. I know my story is not unique, however. And for that reason, I believe there must be a better way.

Over the past few years, there has been some press about lagging workforce development for space-related careers. And a recent report by the US Office of the Inspector General on NASA highlighted career development as a major problem agency wide.

This gets to my biggest complaint about efforts to help attract and develop people interested in space careers: they focus on engineering or becoming an astronaut. I am not saying that engineering or being an astronaut is not important, because they absolutely are. But you do not need to know how to build a fuel tank or fly a jet to be a part of the larger mission behind living, working, and creating commerce in space. And not all positions need you to be highly technical! As the community continues to expand and capabilities grow, we need communicators, business developers, coders, artists, resource managers, physicians, lawyers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and policy wonks in addition to those engineers and astronauts. Without the support of a well-rounded economic infrastructure, nothing is going to get off the ground.

The vision for Careers Ad Astra is to highlight all careers available within the space workforce and provide learning opportunities for all who want to join this lofty endeavor to venture out into the stars. If you have watched videos of rocket launches and felt the tug of wanting to be a part of this movement, but you were not sure how, know that there is a place for you.

Throughout my own career journey, I have had many opportunities to grow and learn. This has come with some hardships, yes. I certainly cannot promise a career without a few hard lessons, and I would not wish that for anyone. I do hope to help others find a place to apply their passion for space and build a career a little faster than I did. It is my hope that in doing so will result in a higher quality workforce. Join me, if a career in space is all you have longed for but never knew how.

Think of the Careers Ad Astra website as a repository for tools to help you grow as a professional and gain fundamental skills and knowledge to add value to the space-based economy. Whether you are mid-career in another sector or are beginning your career journey, this place is for you. And keep coming back as I work to develop more tools and resources to help you on your journey. Per aspera, ad astra!

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