The story of Mach 30 – Part 3: Mach 30 Is Born

This post is part of a special series celebrating the origins of Mach 30 in recognition of our fifth birthday.  Read the beginning of the story in part 1 and part 2.

Bench Top Satellite from AFIT Coursework

Bench Top Satellite from AFIT Coursework

Thanks to Maureen’s gift of my first Moleskine notebook and many discussions about its content, the central themes of Mach 30 started to come together.  With a clearer vision of what I was proposing as a path to sustainable space exploration, I managed to convince Maureen, Andy, and Bekah to help me make my dream a reality. And the four of us became the first leaders of what was then the Space Council, and would later become Mach 30. At first, not much changed. We met infrequently (quarterly or when someone had an idea to share, and that someone was usually me), but we could not get any traction on how to go from my notebooks and a few meetings to something more concrete.

In the mean time, I applied for the graduate program at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Maureen and I moved to Dayton. Once we got there, I started to feel out the faculty and some local professionals to see how our ideas sounded to members of the aerospace industry (by then, we were already incorporating group work into the ideas of the Space Council). And, unsurprisingly, the results were disappointing. No one who could be considered part of the establishment could wrap their head around the concept of non-profit, open source space exploration. In order to not rock the boat at school too much (I did still need these people to support me long enough to get my masters degree), I became more selective in who I shared these ideas with.

As luck would have it, in the fall of 2008, I took a satellite design class with Greg. This was the first time we met. He was still a Lieutenant and was taking classes at AFIT part time during his first tour in the Air Force. I can still remember the day I first told him about the Space Council. We were working in the labs running a day long thermal vacuum test on a small bench top satellite, and had nothing but time to kill.  Being two geeks obsessed with space exploration, both professionally and personally, it did not take long for us to start talking about what got us interested in space.

Slowly but surely, we crept toward what in some ways could only be considered heretical ideas. NASA and the Air Force were not going to bring us into a spacefaring future in our lifetimes. We both desperately wanted to go into space, and the only way to do so was to build our own space ships. But how could that ever happen?

We needed to think outside the box.

Somewhere during the conversation, I realized Greg was a kindred spirit, and so I started to tell him about the Space Council. In those days it took me a long time to even get that far in a conversation. And I ran out of time before I could get into the whole story. But, Greg was intrigued, so we agreed to meet for lunch later that week. I believe it was over smoothies and sandwiches. And over lunch, I gave him the whole spiel. After nearly and hour, he was asking how he could help, and I invited him to a meeting.

It turns out, Greg was just what we needed. He has a very no nonsense, get things done attitude and almost from day one he pushed for incorporating the organization and applying for 501c3 status. It’s amazing what incorporating and having to actually run an organization will do for encouraging people to get things done. By January 2009 we had become an Ohio not for profit and Mach 30 was born.

J. Simmons wishing Mach 30 a Happy Birthday

J. Simmons wishing Mach 30 a Happy Birthday

So, now we are five years in, and I couldn’t be more thrilled at our progress and our future.  We have a website dedicated to hosting open source hardware projects, a strong and very active task force to address export controls, and two very exciting open source spaceflight hardware projects (Shepard Test Stand & Ground Sphere Ground Station).  And later this year we will be inviting our volunteers and supporters to join us for a multi-day planning and celebration event we are calling Apogee (stay tuned for details).  Here’s to another five years and more!  Many, many thanks to all of those who have helped get us to where we are today and to those who are helping build the future of Mach 30.

You too can help build the future of Mach 30.  Show your support for open source spaceflight by joining the Catalyst Club and then helping spread the word about Mach 30 and its programs on social media and at your local makerspace/school/scouting troop.

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2 thoughts on “The story of Mach 30 – Part 3: Mach 30 Is Born

  1. Pingback: The story of Mach 30 – Part 2: The Ideas Behind Mach 30 Take Shape | Mach 30

  2. Pingback: The story of Mach 30 – Part 1: My Personal Motivation | Mach 30

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