In April of 2022, in the first fully private flight to the International Space Station, the four-person crew researched there for more than two weeks before returning to Earth.
The private space industry also plans many future missions to places no human has gone. To explore these areas, we will need to create the right technology to get there and send the information back.
The caramel-colored clouds of Venus have fascinated humans for millennia. The reflecting sunlight would glimmer in the early morning or as an evening star. The planet has continued to spark interest and questions as we learn more. In 2030, NASA will launch a mission that will pass through Venus’s clouds and send data back.
The execution of this exciting mission is called DAVINCI+. The task will complete two orbits of Venus’ atmosphere before dropping into the correct position. Moving through the third pass, it will have a sophisticated camera-carrying probe descend towards a Texas-sized landmass.
We sat down with Christopher Allen, the COO of Nova Space, to better understand the development of these programs. The preparation of these missions needs a highly qualified workforce, and Nova Space provides a digital program to provide the skills necessary for the future workforce.
Nova Space provides immersive professional-development programs for individuals and organizations. The challenge-based program utilizes proven instructional techniques.
Successfully providing skill acquisition to the space economy is Nova Space’s goal. It not only focuses on the government sectors, it also offers professional development in commercial and academic endeavors.
Unlike traditional classroom instruction, the hallmark of Nova Space’s offerings is a hands-on application and continued practice using foundational knowledge and skills to solve real-world challenges. Reminiscent of a “choose your adventure,” students can carry out decisions and discover the consequence of their actions and how certain decisions affect the quality of outcomes for stakeholders and peers.
By offering these unique training experiences paired with digital credentials that are portable and sharable, Nova Space provides a key solution to solving the immense skills gap existing in the space economy today. With future courses and professional programs under development, Nova Space is already providing organizations with a talent pipeline to meet a rapidly growing industry.
Christopher Allen has had a front-row seat to developing some of the first and most sophisticated computer-based learning platforms. He has led the space industry’s workforce-development programs for the past 40 years.
We were surprised when Christopher stated, “What most of the world is unaware of is digital education has been getting worse, not better.”
We expect things to improve through the digital revolution, and he would tout how great everything is with digital learning. However, he did expand on this comment: “Starting with early work at Stanford, MIT, and the Ohio State University in the ’60s and ’70s, researchers were not asking if computers could teach; they were asking if computers could provide better experiences than an educator in the classroom. And the answer they discovered was yes.”
As we all know, computers are a nonliving lifeform, and therefore, unendingly patient. They have no place to go and will run through the same exercises repeatedly without complaint. Early computer-based training focused not on content presentation but on individualized experiences in which programs actively monitored each student to find their strengths and weakness within a curriculum. With knowledge of what each student needed help with, early programs developed on Control Data Corporation’s Plato system adapted content and experiences to provide unique tutoring for each student.
The typical e-learning implementation plaguing today’s corporations and schools is focused not on being better than a classroom experience but equal to or less than. It utilizes computers as broadcast systems, delivering video lectures, linear text content, and simple multiple-choice questions.
No wonder students today are so creative in finding ways to do other things while “learning.”
Technology has the potential to make our humanity better. Therefore, this is different than extending our personal experiences through technology, but rather making our experiences better when technology is not around.
Digital education can do a lot of damage to a lot of people because it scales so nicely.
Christopher stated, “Once I’ve created something extraordinary for one person, it’s ready for a few more people.” His philosophy is to think about designing the experience for a single person. Then he concentrates on how he can empower this person to gain the skills, confidence, and motivation needed in the space industry.
Christopher Allen has had the great pleasure of working with many extraordinary innovators and thinkers in the field of digital education and authoring technologies over the last 15 years.
“Running an R&D division working on next-generation cloud-based authoring systems,” Christopher stated, “I gained significant technical experience. I worked with three of the first four employees from Macromedia, the fourth member of the Photoshop team; cowrote and received three technology patents for user interface; and won several awards for technology innovation.”
As his career started, one of the first and maybe most rewarding experiences he received was working with the Alzheimer’s Association of MN.
Supporting a great team of visionaries, he researched the challenges caregivers face daily and what could effectively raise their quality of life.
Armed with data, he wrote a grant to fund a newly developed plan to develop and train a network of respite care providers within faith-based communities. Winning significant funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he established six faith community organizations in the Twin Cities to match parishioners together and give caregivers a much-needed break.
The program has now been successfully in place for over 20 years.
When discussing his experiences, Christopher Allen mentioned, “I’ve worked with some of the world’s most fantastic organizations to change employee behavior and organizational performance, including Delta Air Lines, Toyota, Dairy Queen, Hilton, and Google.”
In each case, his teams created extraordinary solutions through unique technology and methods resulting in measurable outcomes.
“Starting a new organization is fun, exhilarating, and challenging the moment it gets real,” stated Christopher. “Having received advice from many other entrepreneurs, there are a few key lessons that have continued to ring true.”
First he said, “When raising money for a new venture, people are far more inclined to give a soft no. It might take 20 pitch meetings before you get your first dollar in a recent raise. In the first 19 meetings, which didn’t yield success, almost none of them will directly tell you no. It’s easy to leave a pitch meeting feeling like your concept, vision, and plan resonated, but you can’t stop pitching because of good feelings.”
The second lesson Christopher discussed was, “When scaling a new business, there are a ton of tasks you won’t like doing. Hire someone who loves those tasks. The company won’t thrive when its leader is not enjoying or is procrastinating doing tasks core to the business’s health.”
One of the essential things to consider is as the team grows, focus on aligning each employee with their passions, just as you did as employee number one.
Christopher’s final lesson was about turning around a business. “Furthermore,” Christopher stated, “so many times, organizations know who is polluting the culture and holding back success. When it’s time to say goodbye to a bad actor, you must fill the void left after they are gone.”
“As a leader, you fill the void with positivity, encouragement, and presence,” he stated.
With all this experience and wisdom in providing the space industry, I was wondering what other lessons can professionals in the space industry learn from Christopher.
“Learning is action. You can’t passively learn. We all learn by doing,” Christopher said, “Having spent a good chunk of my career in strategy roles, I can’t stress enough doing side-by-side with performers and stakeholders as the primary method for research before making a strategic decision.”
Early in his career, he started working with his 96-year-young grandfather. For the next four and half years, he sought out opportunities throughout his organization to learn all the facets before asking his grandfather how things worked.
From operating heavy and dangerous equipment and driving across the state to meet clients and vendors, Christopher actively helped each part of his organization.
Each one of these experiences, no matter how difficult, was invaluable in helping shape and direct organizational strategy. But most important, each experience outside his lane provided context and insight for gaining intellectual respect from clients and employees.
Nova Space is on track to be the primary provider and resource for professional development in the space industry. Its organizational dream is to be the professional standard for space education today and 40 years from now. They have the technology, subject matter expertise, and drive to help every space aspiration come true.
Therefore, Christopher and his crew aspire to change lives through quality learning experiences. Individuals with confidence and competence can change careers, get promoted, be healthier, perform better, share freely, and love more deeply.
Digital education is helping construct space in a manner that is accessible for everyone. The space economy needs more talent today. Skills practice is far more valuable than passive learning experiences.
Whether the project in the space program is tools to be utilized in the space station or essential components in the DAVINCI+ mission, Christopher Allen and his team at Nova Space will be training the workforce for these projects.
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