When NASA launched its last shuttle flight in July last year, it seemed like yet another nail in the coffin for the space agency’s endeavors to reach the farthest corners of the universe. Many saw it as the end of an era that had inspired a generation.
But for Evan Twyford, who began designing spacecraft and products for spaceflight in 2005, it’s the most exciting time for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and, until recently, Twyford was helping to design the next generation of space vehicles headed for Mars, near-Earth asteroids, and beyond.
NASA’s motivations and missions have changed a number of times over the decades. In its early years, it was a Cold War-fueled competitive drive that provided NASA with the financial endowment necessary to send Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. Then the administration was driven to establish a permanent human presence in space with the prospects of creating commercial opportunities. It poured its resources into the shuttle program and building the International Space Station.
In 2005, NASA’s mission changed again: President George W. Bush announced a new vision for NASA, the Constellation program, with the goal of exploring the broader frontiers of space. There was talk of bringing people back to the Moon, of missions to asteroids, and of sending astronauts to Mars.
“I think those kinds of missions will get people excited again about the explorations and human spaceflight that NASA does,” Twyford said. “Seeing people floating around in the International Space Station is only exciting for so long and seeing people going back out to explore new worlds is fascinating for a lot of people. I think that’s really going to reignite the public’s fascination with spaceflight.”
Last month, Twyford left NASA to join former space architect Garrett Finney in the development of his business, Cricket Trailer, which, given its unique ergonomic design, has clearly required the demonstration of his NASA pedigree. “The decision to leave NASA was a difficult one,” Twyford said, “but ultimately I decided to leave in order to expand my education in the field of vehicle design and architecture and the chance to work on a commercial vehicle as a part of a brand new startup was an opportunity I could not pass up. Also, I told everyone at NASA, that I would be back, so I do hope to take what I learn in the commercial sector, and reapply it to space vehicle development at a later time.”