While most people can only dream of space travel, Kellie Gerardi aims to go where no man or woman has gone before. Gerardi is one of 700 astronaut candidates with Mars One, which seeks to send a manned mission to the red planet in 2025. When she’s not planning to become a Martian, Gerardi works for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the trade association for the commercial space industry.
“In the past, when you thought space flight, you thought NASA and all its incredible accomplishments. But today, that definition is changing, and it’s encompassing a whole new landscape of industry participants who are really revolutionizing the way we think of space,” Gerardi says. “In the future, I see us expanding our economic sphere beyond Earth, so that eventually we’ll be conducting business in orbit; we’ll have commerce in space.”
From suborbital tourism and research to plans for asteroid mining and fuel stations in space, the sky is, well, no longer the limit. The technology that led to the smartphone revolution “has enabled smaller, faster and more efficient satellites and spacecraft, coupled with the reduced dollar per pound to get to orbit, which is inspiring all of these new startups. There are many areas that are ripe for disruption,” she says.
Are you looking for new horizons or feeling limited by earthbound business opportunities? Gerardi has these tips:
• Stay informed. Visit CommercialSpaceflight.org, sign up for its newsletter, and find out about conferences and other events where you can participate and network. (After all, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s directors include a high-flying group, with executives from businesses such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.)
• Become a mentor. “A lot of these new space companies are composed primarily of engineers and techies—and they’re really amazing at what they do—but there’s room for improvement in things like management flow, marketing and public relations, and other things that every other industry has had time to develop,” Gerardi says. Offer your services as a mentor to get your foot in the door.
• Be proactive. Join local meet-ups to bond and learn from other space fans. If your knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects is shaky, take control of your self-education and tackle a do-it-yourself space science project. “For the price of a motorcycle, you can build your own satellite and launch it,” Gerardi says.
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