ken youngCurrent Job

I retired in 2011.

Previous Employer

NASA-MSC/JSC from 1962 - 1987. I was a consultant for many aerospace companies until 2011.

Current Location

El Lago, TX

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

As a freshman civil engineering student in the fall of 1957, I was inspired by the Soviet launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. That occurred on a Friday, Oct. 4, 1957. The very next Monday I changed my major to aeronautical. When I graduated five years later it had become aerospace engineering.

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs?

Definitely, if at all possible join a co-op or intern for an aerospace company or NASA or DARPA! On-the-job experience, no matter how technically basic, gives you the opportunity to work with professionals, hopefully veteran engineers and IT personnel in "real world" situations. It’s worth many months of classroom study.

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)? Do you feel this has made any difference in you career?

I have always been extremely happy that I chose space over atmospheric, as "space" was the brand new field and I got in on the ground floor of U.S. human space programs. I got to fully participate and contribute to those pioneering efforts from Mercury to the International Space Station.

Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

No doubt: Dr. Byron Tapley! Dr. Tapley was a graduate instructor in 1957. As I recall, he taught the first "space course” -- orbital mechanics. Finest instructor and mentor I ever had.

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

Orbital mechanics because it was essential to prepare to become a trajectory planning and analysis engineer at NASA in the early 1960s. Frankly, it was the only true "space" course I had at UT. Well, I suppose astronomy would qualify.

What is one piece of advice you have for current students?

Study the basics in the textbooks and classrooms, but try to get "hands-on" experience in the "real world," either or both as an intern/co-op and/or team member on UT projects. Almost anyone can learn the "theory," but working with people is far more important to any aspiring engineer.

Are you still working in the aerospace engineering field? If not, why?

Do occasional short-term consultation but I feel that 49 years allows me to say: "Been there, done that!"

Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student?

Not really -- perhaps it was learning basic orbital mechanics and studying the historical evolution of same as pioneered by the great like Kepler, Newton, Brahe, Galileo and Copernicus.

List three things that most people don't know about you.

1. I was born and raised in Austin -- so there never was any question as to where I would go to college.

2. Starting with NASA in Houston in 1962, I was privileged to work on every U.S human space program (and a few robotic ones) from Mercury to the first 16 years of what became the International Space Station (ISS). That covers Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, ASTP, Space Shuttle and what became ISS.

3. The first 20 years, I was a mission planning trajectory expert, specializing in orbital rendezvous. Last 29 years, I was in space system integration and management and consulting.