Passion lead to unexpected places

On Sept. 2, 2015, after two days of weather delays due to former Tropical Storm Erika, the Atlas V launches with the fourth Mobile User Objective System. MUOS-4 is a military communications satellite that will help support the Navy’s communication network.

Derek Richardson

Following your passion can sometimes lead you to amazing places in ways you least expect.

I have been a space geek since middle school. I followed International Space Station missions on TV and the Internet. It was my dream to be involved in the space industry. Because of this, I was told that I should be an aerospace engineer. So that is what I did.

I went to school and, long story short, I couldn’t get past Calculus II. I took it four times before giving up and leaving school.

My passion for space, however, only grew. After a few years of trying to find myself, I started to go to “tweetups” and socials where a bunch of space geeks would get together and talk space.

Sometimes these socials would be at rocket launches, others would be at NASA facilities, but I was still on the outside of the space industry looking through the window, never actually getting involved, which I so desperately wanted.

Then I realized I liked writing. I soon started working on a bachelor’s degree in mass media here at Washburn University, not knowing how, or if, this would help in my goal of getting in the space industry. After all, you need to be an engineer or entrepreneur with a lot of money, right?

Then, on Aug. 19, 2015, I got selected to attend another social by the United Launch Alliance to watch one of their Atlas V rockets launch. I had to take a week off from school to go down to Florida and hope a tropical storm dissipated in order to see this launch.

On Sept. 2, while waiting for the launch, only three miles from the launchpad, I met the founder of a space news site, SpaceFlight Insider. He asked if I wanted to freelance write for him. I accepted.

The dawn launch of the Atlas V was one of the most beautiful launches I had ever seen, in-person or on TV. The sound was intense, and the rocket rose like a sun before the actual sunrise. But I think I will remember this day more for the interesting circumstance my passion brought me to: My first foot in the door to the space industry-as a writer.

I do not yet know where this new path my passion has lead me on will take me. What I do know is that if you have a passion, follow it. It will take you on twists and turns. You may end up somewhere you least expect. But if you are true to yourself, no matter what, you will be happy because you are following your passion.