When I was a kid, I had a computer game made my Microsoft called SpaceSim. I would lie a chair on the floor and pretend I was an astronaut being launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle. I also had Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space, and despite my best efforts to stick to the “script” that NASA had created back in the 60s, I was unable to beat the Soviets to the moon. All of this was in addition to building model rockets, designing my own rockets (but never having the money to build them), mowing enough lawns to fund two trips to Huntsville, Alabama for Space Camp and Advanced Space Academy, and generally doing everything I could to reach my goal of becoming an astronaut.
Unfortunately, with vision that is not correctable to 20/20, becoming even a Mission Specialist was off the table. But that did not deter me from fulfilling my dreams of working in the field of space exploration. I worked hard in high school so that I could pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I figured that if I could not fly into space myself, I could at least help other people get there. I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, then ranked the #3 program in the country, and graduated in four years with experience working on NASA-funded programs and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under my belt.
Although it took me a year to secure that job that I had always dreamed about in space exploration, I did move to Houston the year after graduating to start working on the Safety and Mission Assurance contract for the Space Shuttle Program. I had made it! I have fond memories of sitting in the Mission Control Center, working to ensure the astronauts were safe during their mission to the International Space Station. I was evaluating whether burn-out discrepancies on the Solid Rocket Motors were going to be a problem for future flights. I made connections within NASA and among other contracting agencies that reaffirmed that I was helping to drive the future of space flight forward.
Yet, like all good things, the Space Shuttle Program was coming to an end. I was one of the first to take advantage of an opportunity to transfer within my company. This meant that I spent the next six years working in Missile Defense, while trying to return to space exploration in Huntsville. When the time seemed right for me to part ways with Lockheed Martin, I set out to try and run my own company.
Being an entrepreneur was something I had always wanted to do, so I established myself as someone who start-ups could come to for advice on running a space business, or utilize for designing space missions. I was living a dream of working in orbital mechanics and space exploration. If working on the Space Shuttle Program had fulfilled my childhood dreams, running my own company fulfilled the passions of my grown-up self.
My life and my career have taken a lot of twists and turns, but one thing has remained constant: I have a passion for advancing the future of space exploration in any way I can. And I have always driven myself to follow that passion.
Paul B. Huter