Part 2: Conversation with local space engineer

Jon Edwards is a Penn High School graduate pursuing his dreams in space exploration.

He's leading up a team of engineers at Space X, to send the first commercial rocket into space to carry cargo to the space station

It is something he has dreamed of all his life and is scheduled to take off in a few months

"Growing up as a kid, I actually would push my bed up against my window, put my head out, and look up at the sky," Edward said.

And those dreams of space were encouraged at the PHM planetarium. Edwards later went on to Purdue, becoming an engineer.

"I knew that becoming an astronaut was difficult and probably not going to happen. But, I knew that as long as I was in that field I would be able to apply my interests in physics and science and space and do something pretty cool," Edwards said.

"Purdue has a great rocket lab, high pressure labs," he continued. "They test little rocket engines, and not many universities in the country have that, and I concentrated in propulsion."

Today he is blasting off rockets in California at a company called Space X.

"I just feel blessed to get into the company at it's early stages," Edward said. "Now that we have been successful it is really exciting."

And Edwards is part of a company that is growing fast. Space X started in 2002 and has 1,600 employees.

Edwards explained, "We need to have space craft operate like airplanes do today, able to take off, land and take off again. Once we do that, we will have more travel in space. A lot of work needs to be done between now and then."

And a lot of work needs to be done to reach the companies big goal.
"We have an enormous goal to make it possible for people to live on other planets," Edwards said with excitement. "... and all of the work we do day to day helps us get to that goal."

Edwards shares that dream working hard on the ground level.

"The propulsion systems, the rocket engines, the tanks, most of the components are almost entirely built from scratch in house. Which is rare in aero space ... Our next missions for the next several years are unmanned dragon missions. We will be sending cargo to the international space station," Edwards said.

"We get near the space station about 10 meters away, and we coast. The robotic arm comes in and grabs the capsule and brings it in. They have us and we are under their control ... Are you saving NASA money? Absolutely. Now that the space shuttle is retired, the only way to get to the space station is to ride on the Soyuz rockets, which are Russian Rockets. And those aren't cheap seats. There are only three at a time that get to go up or down at a time," said Edwards.

"What these private companies like Space X are trying to do is develop an American option and be able to send astronauts to the space station and bring them back. And what we are hoping to do is fly seven at a time. What we are trying to do is provide an American and less costly alternative."

Edwards compares private businesses in space to the governments 20th century boost in aviation by working with private companies to deliver mail.

"By letting private companies get into the business and providing business, you can create competition and that drives technology. To offer that opportunity will further the technology, make it more reliable, less costly and eventually flying into space will be like flying in an airplane. That is what every space enthusiast dreams of and that is very possible."

For Edwards, it is exciting to be a part of the first cargo ship in space since NASA shut down the shuttle. "I think watching the capsule dock with the station from our command center in California will be one of the highlights in my life," he said with a smile.


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