Retired NASA Astronaut Joins Crew That’s Building 21st Century Transportation Network
By Bradley Berman
There’s been a lot of buzz about autonomous cars in the past couple years, so it might surprise you to learn that self-driving vehicles are not a new idea. The concept dates back at least to the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. From the germ of those ideas, and throughout the 20th century, technologists built one high-tech advancement upon another — to the point nearly 15 years ago when the US government announced its Vision for Space Exploration, putting robotic spacecrafts at the center of the program.
The man largely responsible for that vision, retired NASA astronaut Scott Horowitz, had his sights set on return-trips to the Moon and Mars. We at The DAV Foundation are thrilled that Horowitz is now helping us create a network of autonomous vehicles on Earth. He joined our advisory board this week.
How many times have you heard people say, “It’s not rocket science,” referring to a simple problem? Well, you couldn’t say that about the complexity of interweaving self-driving cars, self-flying drones, real-world mapping, and all the on- and off-board systems needed to create a highly connected, decentralized Internet of Transportation. Honestly, it is a lot like rocket science. That’s why we are embracing the input from Horowitz, who piloted three Space Shuttle missions and commanded a fourth. After retirement from the U.S. Air Force and NASA, he returned to space administration as the Director of Space Transportation and Exploration.
He first envisioned becoming an astronaut after watching men walking on the moon on television. Horowitz was in sixth grade. After overcoming countless obstacles and rejections — and earning a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and becoming an Air Force test pilot — he was finally admitted to NASA’s astronaut program in 1992. “I’m a focus kind of guy,” he said.
At NASA, he was responsible for selecting SpaceX — the company run by Elon Musk when he isn’t busy building the industry’s most thrilling quasi-autonomous electric vehicles — as contractors to develop Dragon. That was the world’s first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Like Musk, our new advisor Horowitz is a leading advocate of establishing permanent human outposts on Mars. On his 2001 space shuttle flight, when he served as commander, he ordered the Mars Society’s flag to be hoisted up the mast of the shuttle’s payload bay.
Horowitz’s deep knowledge of engineering and communications will be extremely useful to The DAV Foundation, as we develop a new global standard for decentralized autonomous vehicles. But it’s not just Horowitz’s technical chops that we so admire. It’s his vision — and the dogged pursuit of his vision for humanity.
“I am thrilled to join the DAV team on their journey to create and launch a new and innovative infrastructure for a global Internet of Transportation,” Horowitz said. “They’re building the future of transportation, and I am so pleased to be able to offer them my help.”
Welcome aboard, Commander Horowitz.