Back in 2000 while a midshipman at the US Merchant Marine Academy I had the honor of meeting one of America’s 7 original Mercury astronauts, CDR Scott Carpenter. During his visit there was an opportunity for about 20 or so of us to meet for a Q&A session. One of the upperclassmen I recall asking the retired Navy commander about the opportunities of becoming an astronaut by following his path a Navy test pilot. CDR Carpenter’s response startled my fellow midshipman and not in a good way. In short, he felt that being a test pilot was no longer the best requisite to becoming a NASA astronaut. To paraphrase his response, as too many years have since passed, the commander stated “It is easier to train an engineer/scientist to be a pilot than it is to teach a pilot how to be an engineer/scientist.”
Looking at our great many problems today, especially in the arenas of high technology, consumer electronics, and energy I think their is a parallel to be drawn to the pilot versus scientist situation for becoming an astronaut. Our biggest problem today is many large companies are being ran by business executives that myopically focus business, and more specifically short versus long term, and treat investment no different than expenditures. I contend, and perhaps naively so given my background, that companies and society would be better off if more companies were ran by people with technical training. In short, in must be easier to teach an engineer about business than it is to teaching engineering to a businessman. My two cents.
Image courtesy of NASA.gov