Growing access to space, the ability for space to help solve global challenges, expanding the space frontier and the burgeoning new careers resulting from breakthrough technologies makes this the most exciting time in the history of the space program, according to Steve Isakowitz, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation.
Isakowitz spoke at Seaver Spotlight to more than 200 members of the Loyola Marymount University community on Feb. 27 in the Featherston Life Sciences Building auditorium, sharing a brief timeline of his career and then explaining why this is the most exciting time to be in the space program.
Isakowitz described two moments that influenced his career path as a young second grader: when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon and a scene in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey showing a space vehicle shuttling people from the earth to the moon.
“I was captivated by the idea that it was so cool to see Neil and Buzz go to the moon,” he said. “But I wanted to be part of the future where we all had an opportunity to go the moon and that also inspired me to say this is where I want to dedicate my career.”
Why is now the most exciting time in the history of the space program? Isakowitz framed his answer in four parts: the lowering cost of access to space is game changing for the industry; the ability of space technology to help solve global challenges; the opening up of the space frontier; and the burgeoning new technologies leading to many new career opportunities.
A whole new generation of launch rockets are in development that will lower the cost of access to space, explained Isakowitz. “SpaceX led with the idea of reusing boosters,” he said. “More and more, companies are looking at reusing expensive hardware used on rockets.” There is also a new generation of smaller vehicles in development and novel launch ideas companies are cultivating.
The space industry also helps solve global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, national security and more. “There’s a unique advantage that we have when we can observe things from space to solve problems that are going on today,” Isakowitz said. “Space plays a distinct role in helping us protect our nation.” The only way to see some of the superweapons being developed by adversaries of the U.S. is by using the system of satellites positioned in space.
“We are a world superpower because of what we’re able to do in space, and our adversaries know it,” he said. Congress passed into law the creation of the United States Space Force, driven by the threat of our adversaries innovating at a very rapid pace.
“Space is open to any of us that want to go,” said Isakowitz. “Virgin Galactic was created with that premise in mind, to open up space to the rest of us.” Other companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX are also building spacecraft capable of transporting humans to space. Plans are in the works by the U.S. government and private companies to return to the moon, and explore potential for life on other planets in our solar system and outside of our solar system.
With breakthrough technologies in artificial intelligence, 3D manufacturing, robotics, exotic propulsion and more, the career opportunities, for those interested in the space industry, continue to grow.
Isakowitz earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also serves on various advisory boards, including LMU Seaver College’s Executive Board.
Senior English major James Reed contributed to this story.