You might be wondering why Anne Marie and I have chosen to connect our “Flight of the Tigresses” in the 2015 Air Race Classic with Galactic Unite’s mission. Here’s my explanation!
As someone equally passionate about aviation and space exploration, I see the two as intricately connected – one follows naturally from the other. Moreover I see aviation as real-time, accessible-right-now practice for the skills, capabilities, and “Pilot in Command” accountability we’ll need to advance space exploration. With respect to the Air Race Classic specifically, I see this as following along the lines of all challenges in aviation which have led us as a society to open doors to the next-level of technological development: Think about the Orteig Prize which inspired Lindbergh’s successful flight across the Atlantic, and much later the Ansari X-Prize which led to SpaceShipOne accomplishing private-enterprise space flight, which has ultimately led to Virgin Galactic! And so it is that I would like to pose our flight in the Air Race Classic this year as a platform for all to be asking those “What’s next?” questions: What’s next for the future of air racing – will it be on solar-wings? Electric-powered flight? Or even point-to-point via high atmospheric travel? What will the next generation of air racers be like? What would we like them to be learning now, in preparation? How do we want to shape the culture of aviation as we progress through the next races, years, stages?
Galactic Unite offers scholarships – with the option for industry-mentorship – to students as they pursue studies and training which will equip them with the tools to take on the challenges that will ultimately answer those “what’s next?!” questions. Offering scholarships to support students in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) educational paths both in the US and around the world, Galactic Unite’s scholarship focus centers on building the pathway for today’s students to become industry leaders in aerospace and technology.
While some events are geared toward younger audiences, my favorite aspects are the myriad scholarships we’re offering to collegiate students – as with these scholarships comes the offer of mentorship with someone in our enterprise. I mentor one student under this program who has played a major role in the San Diego State University rocket launch lab program, and who has been part of the launch of several respectable rockets to date! I’m also mentoring a student who reached out to me from my alumni network through The University of Chicago.
The reason these mentorships are so meaningful to me is that I know they fill a void that I experienced while I was working hard to earn my undergraduate degree in Physics and simultaneously trying to find a place within the new commercial industry where my skills and abilities could contribute. I realize now that the job I currently hold did not even exist at that time – yet I KNEW I wanted to get into this budding industry and took all the steps I could think of to lay a foundation for my career. It was like a mystery obstacle course to find my way to a network and connections within commercial space from those college days. Now Galactic Unite is creating a clearer road map for emerging talent to find its way by supporting students through this scholarship and mentorship program.
Another positive aspect to scholarship-vectored mentorship is that by creating relationships with future STEM-career movers and shakers we have the chance to shape the culture of this new industry. Through positive outreach we are saying “Come join us, think with us, let’s all create the world we’d like to see tomorrow.” Programs like Galactic Unite are creating a culture of inclusiveness, camaraderie, mentorship, and fellowship for all aerospace-focused professionals, artists, business leaders, and aviators too.
Finally, whereas I realize that in some ways airplanes may not be as exciting to today’s youth as they once were, spaceships, jet engines, and emerging aerospace technologies still retain that attention-grabbing edge. So continuing to connect the possibilities of emerging technologies with aviation – especially as Virgin Galactic succeeds in its mission to show that space access is safe, repeatable, and available widely – is a win-win for these pursuits in parallel. That’s why I’m keen to show the flight of Air Race Classic Team #24 – Team Flying Tigresses – as demonstrating the link between general aviation and aerospace exploration. And I think Galactic Unite is the most direct way for us to do just that. Who’s with me?!
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