Penn High grad will play part in historic SpaceX launch

MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- The country will make history with the first manned rocket launch from United States soil after nearly a decade.

The launch was postponed Wednesday afternoon due to weather conditions.

A small part of the Falcon 9 launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is all thanks to an alumni from Penn High School in Mishawaka.

Jon Edwards, 1997 Penn High alumni, is making historic waves in the future of America’s space exploration.

“I certainly remember Jon as a quiet leader, I would say,” Dr. Steven Collicott said, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. “And that is what sticks out, he and his teammates got the job done. They worked well together.”

Professor Collicott over at Purdue University worked closely with Jon during his undergraduate career, describing Edwards as a leader from the beginning. 

“We worked on a flight experiment for a NASA aircraft that flies in short duration weightlessness, kind of diving through the sky, and Jonathan was a leader of a team of about five students,” Collicott said.

Edwards led his to team to success even then as they were selected to perform that experiment for NASA.

“And so I remember Jon Edwards well from that period and that was spring of 2000, Collicott said.

Edwards has taken his success big time, now working for SpaceX as the Vice President of Falcon Launch Vehicles.

“This has just been a wonderful run of experience for him,” Collicott said.

Edwards’ success, scoring him Purdue’s Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award back in 2017, being one of only a few to get that award.

“And so it was a great honor,” Collicott said. “At that point I think he was merely the Program Director for Falcon 9 and now he’s the VP for Falcon vehicles and so he’s, he’s continued to excel.”

SpaceX is one of only two commercial companies that have been contracted by NASA to build private aircrafts to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with Falcon 9 being the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket, according to SpaceX.

“I think this shows the value of the American industry and innovation and creative approaches and hard work, and that is very good too so it’s kind of, it’s the start of a new age for human spaceflight,” Collicott said. “And I think many years from now, people will be pointing back to this day and you know, May of 2020, when it first happened.”

SpaceX can refly some of the most expensive parts of the rocket, driving down the cost of space access, according to SpaceX.

The United States has sent Americans into orbit, but they were brought back by Russian capsules, according to Collicott.

While that is not a problem, it is costly and that means the U.S. is offshoring a lot of high-tech aerospace jobs, which could now provide the opportunity for the country to bring back those positions, according to Collicott.

“It’s great to have this coming back into the US and becoming something that we do ourselves again,” Collicott said.

With the historic launch, more aerospace jobs could return to the U.S. as space exploration expands on American soil.

Professor Collicott encouraged young adults to pursue a career in this field of work if interested, stating that Jon Edwards followed the exact same path and others can do it too.

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