You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

Updated 3/25/21, 10:29 a.m.

I’ve confirmed my application and acceptance with Kepler Space Institute and am now just waiting waiting for class registration. It turned out not to be exactly what I had in mind, but as the Rolling Stones put it, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” And KSI might be just what I need.

The course content at KSI is definitely in line with my interests:

  • Space systems
  • Human factors for space settlement
  • Space infrastructure and sustainable development
  • Leadership, policy, and governance
  • Space architecture

And so forth. However, is this truly an engineering education? Maybe. With serious space professionals teaching, some of the classes qualify as academic credit, but it seems to vary by the class as to whether the content qualifies as engineering education. There are social aspects thrown into the mix. There might or might not be a need for computer-aided design (CAD), which an engineering friend of mine had asked about. There doesn’t seem to be a solid requirement for calculus, differential equations, or some of the other higher math that I’ve spent my entire life avoiding. For example, the master’s degree aerospace systems engineering program at  UCF lists five or six prerequisite classes requiring higher-order math. So it’s not the full, rigorous engineering program I expected. Is that really so bad?

I have to be realistic with myself. I’m in my 50s now and not particularly patient with equations. If I was, I’d be an engineer by now, right? So it seems to be more akin to an enrichment program for people who already have careers and want to move further in the direction of space. Space-interested people have done crazier things to demonstrate their interest in the subject. Some go out to a desert somewhere, play at living on the planet Mars for a couple weeks, and then put that on their resume. Those are my kind of people.

The program helps the students conduct their own research or other projects with assistance (and some lecture) from the professors. I can do that. Am I ready to do advanced calculus? Most likely not. So perhaps this exactly as much space education as I can handle at this point in my career. I’m going to go with it. Anyone disappointed with me is free to register a complaint. I’ll hear you out, but quite frankly I’m in this to learn things that make me happy. Differential equations do not make me happy.

Do I know what career benefit I’ll get from this? No. Friends who attended the International Space University (ISU), which is a business-focused, program similar to KSI, have told me that the most valuable things they got out of that program were the networking connections. So who knows where this adventure will take me? I’ll learn as I go along. There are much worse ways to occupy one’s time during a pandemic.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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