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  • In the 20th century, most people would have considered being an astronaut the number one job related to space. Now, in the 21st century, opportunities to work in the space industry have broadened considerably!

    Aotearoa New Zealand has its own space industry that is busy and growing all the time. A number of roles exist that are connected to space in some way, and very few of them involve astronauts. The space industry is involved with:

    So how do you get a job in the space industry? Where do you start?

    Education for space-related careers

    Pathways into the space industry vary with each individual. For instance, Peter Beck (Rocket Lab) and Mark Rocket (Kea Aerospace) didn’t go to university but are now leading and innovating in their own space companies.

    Many people who work in the aerospace industry think science, technology and mathematics are important subjects to study – even if they found them difficult at times. When Dr Beata Bukosa studied physics at school, she didn’t understand some of it and had to work hard. Her efforts paid off – she’s an atmospheric modeller with the MethaneSAT mission working with lead scientist Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher. Sara, on the other hand, enjoyed writing and art more than science, but today, she uses ground and satellite technology to observe greenhouse gases. Sometimes attitude and curiosity are just as important as good grades!

    There are other pathways, too. Studying languages helps us think about the world in different ways. For instance, Dr Pauline Harris talks about what happens at the interface of science and mātauranga Māori with the work she does as an astrophysicist, cosmologist and kairangahau Māori at the University of Wellington.

    Jennifer Blackburne earned a tennis scholarship, which took her to university to study mechanical engineering. Experience in coding with Scratch helped Juliet McLachlan understand the computational thinking that led to her work as a flight operations software engineer. Juliet also enjoyed art, design and music at school.

    Attitudes and dispositions

    People working in the space industry have identified attitudes and dispositions they find useful, including:

    • being curious and asking questions about how and why things work
    • being a self-starter and proactive
    • being co-operative and collaborative
    • having creativity to think outside the box
    • being a logical thinker
    • having persistence and resilience when things get tough
    • enjoying building things by hand or on a computer
    • enjoying attending clubs, networks and events about space.

    Do you recognise any of these dispositions in yourself? They aren’t limited to what you do at school. They can apply to sports and hobbies too!

    Space-related jobs

    People working in space-related jobs might begin their careers anywhere, such as in teaching or photography or working with maps, and later move into a job related to space. Alternatively, they might start in an industry that already has some connections with space such as working with radar or software engineering and keep moving further into space-related roles.

    The experts who appear in the video below are a small representation of Aotearoa’s aerospace sector, but they’ve had a huge variety of jobs, hobbies and interests! Former and current jobs include:

    • air traffic controller
    • biochemist
    • biodiversity scientist
    • communications technologist
    • data analyst
    • educational resource developer
    • electrical engineer
    • map maker
    • mechanical engineer
    • oceanographer
    • photographer
    • researcher
    • sailor
    • satellite engineer
    • software engineer
    • technician
    • television producer
    • user interface designer
    • videographer.

    The New Zealand Space Agency is Aotearoa’s lead government agency for space sector development. It notes that there are lots of other jobs beyond science, engineering and technology. The space industry also needs people with skills in communications, ethics and law. Most importantly, young people need to be ready to take on the challenge of doing jobs that don’t even exist at the moment!

    Related content

    Meet some other scientists whose work intersects with the space sector:

    Activity ideas

    Can I work in the space industry? fosters blue-sky thinking about how and where tamariki and rangatahi might see themselves in the space industry.

    Get a taste of some types of thinking that happens in the space sector:

    Get a taste of engineering, building things and problem solving:

    Useful links

    Explore the websites for these Aotearoa New Zealand space organisations/businesses:

    Acknowledgement

    This resource has been produced with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the support of the New Zealand Space Agency.

      Published 25 July 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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