Second View

Second View: Unsung Heroes

Written by: developer

Space Watch includes a monthly feature, called Second View, that shares a viewpoint from a Space Foundation team member. The column complements CEO Elliot Pulham’s The View From Here and expands our ability to share Space Foundation views and issues. This column is by Steve Eisenhart, Space Foundation Senior Vice President – Strategic & International Affairs

The recent American football Super Bowl saw the use of the term “hero” tossed around in a number of ways. Heroes of the past performed the ceremonial coin toss. We heard the term used to characterize the exploits of quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants ‘heroic’ win. We also heard the tongue-in-cheek beer commercial hoisting a salute to the “real American hero, ‘the big foam finger maker.'”

Next month we will honor some true heroes with awards at the 28th National Space Symposium. These include Gen. Thomas Moorman, Jr., USAF, Ret., who will be honored for lifetime achievement, and Dr. Junichiro Kawaguchi, Senior Fellow at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who will receive our Space Achievement Award. During the week, we will also honor educators, communicators and innovators.

Our industry would not exist without heroes. Early space explorers — and modern day space explorers, for that matter — are brave, smart and fanatically dedicated. But, the definition of explorer is not reserved for just those who send their bodies hurtling through space. It’s also for those who envision the possibilities that such things can — and should — be done.

It is the collective body of their work that causes our industry to be so great, so exciting and so successful. My travels and day-to-day engagement in the industry have introduced me to many, many unsung heroes. I’d like to acknowledge a few. (Some of you may recognize yourselves or your colleagues. I’d simply say I’m proud to know you and thank you for all you do.)

Here’s my list:

  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers and scientists living and working on “Mars time”. From veteran leaders to a new generation of professionals whose careers had not even begun when Opportunity landed eight years ago, you continue to amaze us with your discoveries.
  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy staffer working yet another weekend at yet another inter-agency meeting on yet another policy review just “trying to do the right thing” by balancing everyone’s interests.
  • The program manager from a developing African country, proudly conducting a technical briefing at a United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) meeting, explaining how Earth Observation applications support critical — often life-and-death –national programs in his or her country.
  • College graduate students working their research experiments long after their colleagues have hit the local bars.
  • The aerospace education specialist working 21 straight days many times a year…because weekends are the only time a teacher can take training.
  • The satellite company executive…fighting to save individual positions and avoid layoffs in times of uncertain program funding.
  • The professional congressional committee staffer trying to insert the right language into an appropriations bill to protect a program vital to our economy, our safety or our health and well-being.
  • The media specialist telling the story of NASA to a public that thinks the agency went away with the final Space Shuttle mission.
  • The exhibits manager of a prime contractor, putting up the booth for the “umpteenth” time to make sure the capabilities of his or her program are understood by decision makers.
  • United Nations delegates diligently working to find agreeable language in creating “rules of the road” in space activities.
  • Launch company ‘red teams’…finding the cause of a countdown anomaly so the mission can proceed.
  • The NRO analyst…laboring in the shadows to ensure our national leadership has the information it needs.
  • Astronauts…giving back to the industry the expertise they have acquired to make future exploration a reality.
  • Entrepreneurs…inspiring us with their energy and commitment.
  • Acquisition officers… balancing requirements and procuring the best assets for our nation’s needs.
  • The Commerce Department advocate… promoting American commercial industry to the international community.

And of course no list of heroes would be complete without including our military space forces… forward deployed or deployed in place… flying satellites; providing communications, navigation and timing; operating the systems that provide for our national security. From the newest private and airman to the most senior commanders, we are blessed with the selfless service of so many.

As we gather in Colorado Springs for the 28th National Space Symposium, you’ll see some of these heroes. Others will be far from The Broadmoor doing their duty and performing their missions as they do every day.

My View from Here is that we should celebrate all our industry heroes.  We certainly have many.

Steve Eisenhart is Senior Vice President – Strategic & International Affairs. He leads the strategic integration of the public, policy and international affairs of the Space Foundation. He supervises the Space Foundation’s Washington, D.C., office, which handles: government affairs and research and analysis efforts; relationships with government agencies, other space advocacy organizations and associations; and corporate interests. Eisenhart is principally responsible for the Space Foundation’s global strategy and relationships with international space agencies and organizations, foreign embassies and U.S. organizations involved with international space programs. He is directly responsible for the program development and integration of key Space Foundation activities including the widely acclaimed National Space Symposium.  Since joining the Space Foundation in 1996, Eisenhart has had a broad range of responsibilities, serving as senior vice president of strategic communications, director of communications and public affairs and communications manager. Eisenhart was a military public affairs official and is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This article is part of Space Watch: March 2012 (Volume: 11, Issue: 3).