When Gayton Germane taught a class at Stanford Business School 20 yearsago, he used to give his students a farfetched problem: design a transportation system to the moon.
Today he's teaching a Stanford class on commercial space development where the same problem is hardly improbable.I thought (back then) we'll give them one that's really far out," says Dr. Germane. Looking back on it, I'm amazed" that students came up with ideas being explored today, he says.
His class at Stanford is believed to be the only one on commercial space development offered by a U.S. business school. And several students so far have gone on to jobs in space-related businesses, according to Dr. Germane.
The class, being offered for the second year, attracted 28 students initially. This year 43 of the 750 students attending the business school signed up.
Many in the class are former engineers. Don Eichmann, 26, an aerospace engineer, says he's taking the course to explore the field for job leads.
Although the job market now is slim, Mr. Eichmann and other students expect more openings in 10 years. I could very well end up in some field related to space" by then, he says.
Tony Satterthwaite, a former petroleum field engineer, says, What I'm getting is that we're still 10 to 15 years away from real business development in space."
But job possibilities do exist now at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he pointed out.
Mr. Satterthwaite, 26, spent four years in South America as an engineer and is interested in getting into space project management.
Stanford's space class is also open to students outside the business school. Avi Meyers, 39, who's in Stanford's international policy studies program, says he's taking the course because he finds space topics interesting.
Mr. Meyers, who spent 10 years running a real estate firm before going back to school, wants to get involved in international development, probably via government channels.
Although Dr. Germane doesn't expect rapid growth in his course until more space jobs develop, he says students find that space issues make challenging business problems. They find it very intriguing," he says.
The professor, a genial man who sports a navy blue tie emblazoned with a silver airplane, specializes in teaching transportation courses at Stanford.
On one warm spring afternoon, students gather to hear one of the frequent guest lecturers in the course. Most of the students are in their 20s and 30s, dressed informally in jeans or shorts, with men outnumbering women by about 10 to 1.
The speaker is John B. Gantt, former vice president and general counsel of Comsat General Corp. Now with the Washington law firm of Hunton & Williams, Mr. Gantt recounts the history of communications satellites. He describes how the United States negotiates the joint use of satellites with other nations through Comsat, a private company owned by U.S. telecommunications firms and individual investors.
Mr. Gantt, who also lectured to last year's class, provokes many questions and is asked back again next year.
Over the life of the course, students will discuss how to manage space enterprises, communications satellites, remote sensing and launch services, and space stations. They'll also solve problems common to firms that sell space related products. Other guest speakers from industry will include executives from Ford Aerospace and Communications Corp., the American Rocket Co., NASA, and Lockheed Missiles & Space Co.
Lockheed executives will talk about space vehicles and living in space, while George A. Koopman, president of American Rocket, will discuss his company's plans for a multiple rocket launch vehicle.
Field trips to NASA, Ford, and Lockheed facilities in northern California are planned.
With computer simulations, aspiring space managers will also get to try building a space station, using the space shuttle as a transport vehicle.
They'll have to deliver and assemble 16 different modules on time and within budget and will either get bonuses for early completion or penalties for delays.
Students can also try their hand at operating 16 different space shuttle missions, including deploying a space telescope and recovering a malfunctioning satellite.
We're going to try to make it (the course) better every year," says Dr. Germane.