Now, he says, when students with newly minted graduate degrees consider offers from NASA and private industry, “New Space wins hands down,” even though the salaries tend to be lower that those the big corporations or NASA pay.
Elsewhere, students graduating with advanced aerospace engineering degrees may spread themselves a bit more evenly. In an economy still struggling to rise from the so-called Great Recession, getting a foothold in one's chosen field, even if the employer is not a first choice, beats the alternative.
Still, NASA's new direction – contracting with commercial launch providers to carry cargo and people to destinations in low-Earth orbit while focusing on human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit – is putting extra spring in students' steps.
“What we're looking at here is not Apollo 2.0, it's a whole new future in spaceflight,” says Robert Braun, professor of space technology at Georgia Tech and former chief technologist at NASA. “And that is something that I can tell you reverberates with a lot of energy and excitement on college campuses across the country.”
Part of the interest may lie in the novelty the new companies represent, some specialists say. But a big part of it surely lies in the big ideas these companies are pursuing.