One of the first astronauts to set foot on the moon as well as the most recent to do so will be among the featured participants at Saturday’s Go Boldly Expo in St. Paul.
Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt will join other scientists and leaders of the aerospace and aviation industries for AirSpace Minnesota’s event, which aims to celebrate the state’s rich history in those fields and pique students’ interest in them.
Aldrin, who took part in the first moon mission; Schmitt, who landed on the moon in 1972; and industry leaders will give presentations during Saturday’s event. There will also be a career fair showcasing jobs related to flight.
The job market for pilots and mechanics is expected to boom in the next 20 years, said AirSpace Minnesota President Kristi Rollag Wangstad, so it’s important to make students interested and aware of the opportunities.
“There are thousands of interesting jobs,” she said, “but they’re kind of under the radar.”
Minnesota has made a number of major contributions to space exploration. The man known as the “father of human space flight,” Robert Gilruth, grew up in the state and attended the University of Minnesota. Maplewood-based 3M helped make the boots that formed the first human footprints on the moon, and the Mayo Clinic has a top aerospace medicine program.
Though these topics aren’t often discussed, AirSpace Minnesota wants to change that and bring the aviation and aerospace fields to prominence.
When American scientists were tasked with getting to the moon first in the 1960s, it was the “most audacious” engineering challenge in history, Rollag Wangstad said.
Now, she said, there’s no such singular goal to interest young minds in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. But because flight is “innately interesting,” she said, it can make students excited, which could help lead them into the science fields for their education and careers.
“It’s going to be just a surprise to people when they see how broad the opportunities are,” she said.
Cody Nelson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.