by Harman Dhillon
Intriguing advances have let humankind take science and technology to new levels. The aerospace industry has drawn students’ interest for years allowing it to grow, but now, it is struggling in the corona-economy. A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found “92% of space firms with R&D as a primary business line were small businesses, sole-source providers of critical parts, equipment, and services.” Similarly, the aerospace industry as a whole finds itself in trouble.
Via the CARES Act, the government provided economic assistance during the pandemic. Funds were provided to federal agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specifically to address the impact of the pandemic on safety and mission assurance programs and on-going activities. NASA received: “$60 million in CARES Act funding within its Safety, Security, and Mission Services appropriation to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus domestically or internationally.” Government aid prevents the aerospace industry from collapsing.
Although government aid helps the industry, its survival is almost independent of it. In the words of Sean O’Keefe, former NASA administrator and professor at Syracuse University, “The government is involved in research and development of activities, it doesn’t actually make anything the industry does.” He saw coronavirus disrupt commercial demand, but not push the industry past recovery. He believes people interested in aerospace keep the industry alive. He did not see the corona-economy hindering interests of aerospace students; O’Keefe described increasing interest among students in this expanding industry. Wallace T. Fowler, former professor at University of Texas at Austin, sees constant drive in students as well: “It’s a certain group of people… to those people, it's not a job, it's a calling.” Fowler described the successful careers of many former students explaining they should remain in the industry despite coronavirus-related lifestyle changes. People truly interested in aerospace will stay interested, regardless of the economy.
The government helps aerospace companies and larger organizations stay afloat in a drowning economy, but public interest remains the driver of the industry. The aerospace industry will survive as long as students remain interested, and coronavirus has not changed that fact.