Imagine you have a husband at home who says his dream is to become an astronaut!
We have been together for 20 years…yes we started dating in college. He used to tell me he always wanted to be an astronaut, ever since he was a child.
It was never a conversation where it was an actual possibility, and it still feels a little bit fuzzy. It was just him dreaming about something in the distant future that seemed like just a fantasy.
But my husband strongly believes in it and he is actually taking massive action! Therefore, I believe I could be an astronaut’s wife one day!
To tell you the story of his dream and the massive action he is taking, I asked him to tell you the story of how he believes, and what he is doing to follow his dreams.
Hope you like the story and get inspired as I am every day!
Wanting to be an astronaut is a kid’s dream, at least it was for me, at least for a while. As life went on, it stopped being my dream. But then, it became my dream again in full force!
Around the end of primary school, I had these flashes of what I wanted to be, and I remember seeing images on TV of people walking and jumping on the Moon! I was really curious! I remember seeing the astronaut’s helmet and being really close to the TV screen (we had a blue filter in front of the TV screen).
I remember thinking, “That is where I’m going.”
Still, at that time, I had 2 ideas for my future. I wanted to be an astronaut or a crazy mad scientist.
I think because of the growth spurt and Battlestar Galactica (the first version, even though the one from 1993 is better), when I was 14, I would have dreams where it felt like I was falling to Earth. I could see it from above, even diving into its core. Although the disorientation was somewhat overwhelming (there was a lot of spinning), there was a sense of comfort, awe, peace, wonder and quietness.
Through the years, that always followed me. When I grew up, life gave me many other pathways and needs.
By the time I was in university/college, I was not the best student. I was good, but not the best. I was chasing my engineering degree, 2 jobs, and my competitive life in Portugal’s National Karate team.
At that time, I chose to pursue my degree in industrial engineering and management and left the dream of aerospace engineering or physics (major inspiration via Carl Sagan and Cosmos).
If I’m being honest, this was a hard time in my life. On the National Karate Team, I was at the “Top of the Spear” level, or very close to it. Then in college, I took the road that was mostly for “the smart ones.”
And it was hard for a while.
Eventually, I did finish my degree. Mostly because of the help from my wife and juggling with life’s plan. We moved around a lot. From Portugal, Norway, UK and now we’re living in the US.
A lot of life happened, but think of it this way, the dream went dormant and stayed there.
So why now, in my forties, am I finally doing it?
If you want to be an astronaut in a country that does not have a space program, it will be incredibly difficult to do. When we moved to the US, this was no longer an issue. Of course, the US does have a strong space program, both federal and commercial.
In 2019 I decided to start getting involved in the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), which promotes the aerospace profession and technologies. It is an association with many working groups that allow participation for individuals, after some initial vetting for skills and intents.
Getting to America was the reigniting of the dream, and in 2019, the US private space sector was (and still is) growing. Elon Musk’s ideas for Mars, Bezos’ ideas for space colonies around Earth. With their innovations and ideas, it just seems so much more possible for the world, which makes it so much more possible for me.
This reawakening happened when Henrique (my son) and I were sitting at the dinner table and we asked him what he would like to do when he became an adult. This question had somewhat of a boomerang effect. I stumbled and said I wanted to be an astronaut.
In the beginning, it felt more like a joke, not really serious (what Dad doesn’t joke all the time?), but it came from a corner in my head and my heart that I hadn’t visited in a while.
My inability to respond to a simple question that I had asked my son was a wake-up call. As I went to answer, I thought about where I was in my life at that moment, and what was happening (the future is always happening), and a sense of urgency came over me.
I’m probably one of those people that just pushes forward without much thought and planning. In this case, I hoped from the bottom of my heart that this would be okay for my family, including myself.
So the next step was to dive in and go for it. I had to make a plan and take one step at a time to get closer and closer to making my dream come true.
- Get close to “space people.” (I had no idea of what “space people” meant because there are so many areas and specialities, but that was still the plan).
- Use my skills. As an adult, I had worked in several countries and large scale business transformations, overseas automotive plant process enablement, and fundamentally changing corporations from 30,000 to 100,000 employees. These are skills that could be what the groups at AIAA would need, and I tried to find other groups where an industrial engineer with massive process improvement experience would be beneficial.
- Spending my time “in space.” That meant spending my time and energy and doing whatever is needed to become involved in something related to space. In practice, this meant sending around 600 emails to anyone I had access to in the AIAA and other outside organizations. I offered my time to support the groups, especially those that had some target keywords and upcoming projects focusing process. One and a half years later, I’ve posted many discussion sessions and spent many hours working on a standard for space mission design. I’m making a close liaison with commercial space professionals and the space operations technical support group. This also meant that I had the opportunity to work in a combined project for the Word Design Organization and the International Space Station. No, I haven’t met the team up there, but I started working on process improvement with the team on Earth and got to know the in-space manufacturing pre- and post-mission.
- Found mentors and cherished them. Captain Stephan Reckie, whom I met at a NYC Space Symposium, helped me a lot. He gave me ideas, supported my calls, and as he promoted the Space Entrepreneurship Summit, I went along. I just wanted to be trained, meet people, understand what they were doing and how I could help with my experience. There I met and followed up with almost all of the speakers, posed questions, went on camera, did my job, pitched and failed on moving to the next phase. It felt good, really good.
- Diversify and focus. How can this happen? Well, it can’t, but being ready and flexible, doing things works. Because of the pandemic, I lost all my consulting work, so that came to an end. In the beginning, it was incredibly difficult, and it still is, especially financially. The most that my other job is delivering is about 1/16 of my consulting work. So I had to get creative to keep pushing towards my goal. I attended all possible on-line events about space. They were free, people would let you pose questions, and we were actually able to meet some of the big names from the books on space, management, and entrepreneurship. I met during this journey people who became my mentors, like Clive Neal and John Spencer, with whom I regularly have calls with and do my best to listen and implement their thinking.
Last year, after failing to find the right people to go to a NASA SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research Grant), I asked Clive if he would like to participate in the Break the Ice Challenge. I had the impression that if we could mine the moon with a system that could be industrial vs one of space, NASA would have the resources to launch from there in a sustainable way. Our proposal is being judged at this moment, and the team includes Paul Van Suzante and Honeybee Robotics.
- Have a plan. As I saw things unveiling, I knew I needed more knowledge and a stronger network and being with people that have the same mindset. So I started searching for space courses. I wanted to be a space architect, but it did not work out, and then I found a course on commercial space, from Florida Tech and International Space University. Looking at the cost, it seemed almost impossible, but this was a great opportunity to get back to college and to strengthen my knowledge about space. To be fair, the course is a combination of knowing what drives governments and companies, policy and strategy, to the innovation realms and the pains of finding a product that works and clients want, to orbital mechanics and space technology.
Simply put, my plan is this: space processes and mission design (things that are close to my early career), then space-Earth observation (satellites are booming), then move to human space flight, and finally, become an astronaut. My goal is to be the person that build the things and then gets to use them doing science up in space.
The market will determine the price and access to space. Right now, it’s almost impossible for even the wealthiest people in the world to go for a flight.
My job is to make the processes more industrialized, which will impact the price of tickets, the experiences, and the access to space will open up. And by 2027, it will be my time and the time for many people that are willing to do the work and advance Earth life and betterment through space.
From my hotel room, I could see launch pad 39A, the very spot Apollo 11’s flight to the moon launched from over 50 years before. And what a coincidence that I was there during the historic flights of Richard Branson and Jeffrey Bezos. It was phenomenal and it must be the universe trying to tell me something.
Yesterday, me and a few others from the cohort were at a bar talking about the course and the amount of work to be done in these 15 days and some folks on the side looked at us and asked, “What are you here for? Vacation?” “Well, we are here for the Commercial Space Course. It’s 2 weeks of getting things done, presentations, tests, review, preparation, studying, making space possible for all.”
For a brief second, I received that look that we give to astronauts in their suits or a Top Gun moment.
Thankfully, fame is brief and there is just too much to work on to bask in it for too long. Still, this is proof that space inspires people, it moves them, probably like no other thing except love. Love for your close friends, your partner and your children.
As the options to move to and from space get tested, it’s making it possible for more people. We are working on the innovation and business ideas that will make it possible for all of us to fly up there, come back safely, and one day, live outside of Earth.
It is just a question of time, but not too much time. This is something that my 3-year-old daughter will see happen. When we talks, she asks, “Are you going to the spaceship?” I say “Yes, I am,” and she says, “I’ll go with you, Daddy.”
And that is really close to happening.
My final message to you is this: Do the work you have to do, and let yourself say what you need to, accept ideas from others, and be firm and polite in your actions.