The piece was originally published on the California Economic Summit blog.
Mars is 354 million miles away from Earth, but NASA didn’t need to go to the far ends of the universe to find other-worldly technology to help get the Curiosity rover to Mars: they found it in one California business.
Ever wonder how NASA scientists are able to fire a rocket at high speeds for several hundred miles, only to gently slow it down enough to deposit a rover safely onto the surface of a martian planet? They do it with the innovative technology of Aerojet, a Sacramento company whose rocket motors assisted the journey and successful touchdown on Mars through every step of the mission.
This isn’t the first time that Aerojet has lent its rocket talents to NASA: Aerojet’s thrusters were also used on Viking 1 and 2 as well as the Phoenix Mars Lander.
And Aerojet isn’t the only company to take advantage of the opportunities provided by NASA. Curiosity currently is providing 700 jobs, but over the last eight years of its development, it’s supported 7,000 jobs. Credit a $2.5 billion budget for the rocket-related job growth, and that figure is expected to keep the program, and related jobs, going for another two years.
The money is there, but how can California encourage its companies to get in a position like Aerojet where they can reap the benefits of billion-dollar government budgets or the burgeoning private space industry? It can do this by promoting the development of the required progressive technology and this can be accomplished with the help of the Economic Summit Action Plan.
Specifically, the Smart Innovation action team is an integral part of putting California businesses in positions where they can compete with companies across the globe. By working with industries, universities, and local governments to support rather than stymie innovation by California businesses, our state will see the jobs and tax dollars that come with success.
One of the Smart Innovation initiatives has already taken flight with the creation of a new U.S. Patent Office right here in California, thanks to the efforts of Summit partner, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
It took eight years to get Curiosity from just an idea all the way to Mars. It’s this type of commitment to a plan that will help California turn itself around.