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Why You Should Care About Space, No Matter Your Goal

by Sirina Nabhan in Aerospace, Space Exploration

Today is a very good day to talk about space. The National Space Council resumed last week after being inactive for twenty-four years. For a space enthusiast, such as myself, it’s encouraging to see political goals align with the goal to further expand space exploration. We put humans on the moon in 1969. For the politicians at the time, and most citizens, that was enough. For engineers and scientists, on the other hand, that was only the beginning of the ongoing struggle to fund risky, but potentially life-changing, space programs.  

The “Space Race”, the competition between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union to go to the moon, was followed by a very anti-climatic end. The U.S.A. “won” by being the first to land on the moon. However, there was more interest in politics than science. After the 70’s, space exploration was no longer a hot topic. That is, until the Mars Science Laboratory, more popularly known as Curiosity, captivated people and flooded the media with high-definition photos of the surface of Mars.

In 2015, The Martian movie came out. The film was meant to inspire a new wave of space supporters. Today, our Mars endeavors are not only supported by astronomers, engineers, and scientists, but also political officials and business heads.

Now, more than ever, there are opportunities and challenges that require a diversity of thought to tackle these new, out-of-this-world problems. Not to mention, the need to have a diversity of opinions shape the way and the laws needed to become an interplanetary society.

A person who exemplifies the new face of the old aerospace industry is SpaceX president, Gwynne Shotwell: “From my perspective, it’s really risk management to ensure that humans have the ability to go somewhere else in case there were to be some huge disaster on Earth.” She strongly believes in the need to establish a serious exploration program. By serious, I mean one that has a serious budget.

Unlike NASA’s effort to discover things about our world and the space that surrounds us, SpaceX is exploring radical and risky methods of space exploration. Although NASA works with the most cutting-edge technology, provided by giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, space exploration accounts for a very small amount of the aerospace industry’s resources. The future of space exploration and the hope of it becoming a profitable industry is in the private sector.

I am working in network engineering at the Deep Space Network (DSN), managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The output of the brilliant minds I work with is outstanding. For example, the people who designed the exciter system that operates the 70-meter antenna I operate is sensitive enough to sense a whisper in space. That is truly amazing. Why should these abilities and brilliant minds be pinched and picked for every penny?

The demand for spacecrafts on the DSN calls for a true expansion. Another hot topic up for discussion is the need for easier ways launch spacecrafts, and possibly moon settlements.

Will the next brilliant mind that leads the charge in this industry be you?

Sirina Nabhan
About the Author

Sirina Nabhan is the Network Operations Analyst for the Deep Space Network (DSN) at Metis Technology Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of NASA. Sirina graduated from UC Riverside with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Her primary responsibility at Metis Technology, Inc. is to work on spacecraft designed by NASA and foreign space agencies to operate their use of antennas which can capture signals from billions of miles away. Sirina has previously interned for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a parts engineer. Through her internships, she solidified her passion for the aerospace industry.

While at UC Riverside, Sirina was President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and an electronic parts manager in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE). Through her contributions on campus, she was able to increase the amount of women in IEEE and establish the first technical, ongoing project in SWE. She continues to provide NASA tours and mentoring to her successors.  

Sirina’s long-term goals are to become an expert in spacecraft communications and be a part of the generation that puts humans on Mars. She currently works with scientists and engineers across NASA institutions to establish ground communication infrastructure with the Orion spacecraft, the first of several exploration missions to send astronauts into deep space and eventually, Mars. Beyond her career, she enjoys taking long camping trips and staring into telescopes at other worlds.