We’ve written plenty about the disruptive impact cutting-edge technologies are going to have on the job market. According to some experts, approximately 43% of current jobs in the United States are at risk of automation in the coming years. According to the World Economic Forum, however, technology will also cause plenty of new jobs to spring up, many of them in entirely new industries and locations.
One of these new locations is going to be in space, a destination that’s currently booming thanks to renewed focus from NASA and an influx of private companies like SpaceX.
Ever dreamed of working in the stars? Want to know what some of these roles might entail? Here’s a list of job titles that sound a lot like science fiction now, but almost certainly won’t a decade from now.
The dream of piloting your own spaceship was once the fantasy of any kid who ever watched Star Wars and dreamed of being Han Solo at the controls of the Millenium Falcon. It won’t remain a dream for much longer, however.
With the likes of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic well on their way to becoming the space equivalent of commercial airlines, and plans for space tourism on the rise, there will be a significant increase in the need for shuttle-steering space pilots.
Oh, and you can add in ancillary professions such as space traffic control officials and space flight attendants, among others.
No, it’s not the title of John Grisham’s next legal thriller, but rather a new class of legal work that’s going to be available to tomorrow’s lawyers. Okay, so “lawyer” might not sound like the kind of crazy, space-age job title you think of when you picture the future, but it’s certainly going to be a much sought-after specialization.
Regulations concerning areas who has the rights to mine asteroids (more on that later) are broad and vague now. But they’re exactly the kind of areas that are going to be the subject of tomorrow’s multi-billion dollar lawsuits. Being a space lawyer promises to be both exciting and lucrative.
How does designing a new space station strike you? What about developing future moon bases or housing on Mars? Where once the job of space architect might have meant dreaming up futuristic sets for Hollywood movies, in the near future it’s going to be an existing job category.
These architects won’t simply be recreating Earthbound structures that happen to float. They’ll have to possess special expertise in the kinds of harsh environments you only find in space, capable of withstanding everything from extreme radiation to subzero temperatures. And they’ll also need an understanding of fields like physical and psychological wellness in space, along with more specialized knowledge.
Of course, designing buildings is only part of the task. Carrying out construction work or repairs, some of it in situ, is also going to be a viable area of work. In some cases, materials and construction parts may be 3D printed in space and never even set foot on Earth. Sure, self-assembling nanobots or giant 3D printers could carry out some of the construction work in space, but there will still be the need for humans to get involved.
Did you know that prolonged time in space physically changes the structure of astronauts’ eyes? What do days, weeks, or even months away from Earth in a desolate environment like the Moon mean for a person’s psychologically? What happens to a passenger if they’re taken ill during a commercial space flight?
A number of universities are already offering courses or modules in fields like space physiology and health. Right now, you could argue that these courses are premature in terms of training large numbers of medics for space medicine. A decade or two from now, however, we’ll be glad that they exist.
Mining asteroids isn’t a thing just yet, but it will be a decade or more from now. With depleting resources on Earth, the hope is that precious resources could be mined from the approximately 9,000 known asteroids currently traveling in orbit close to the Earth, and the 1,000-odd new ones that are discovered each year. The dream is that these asteroids could contain an abundance of fresh resources, ranging from water to platinum.
Given we don’t currently know exactly how this mining will take place, it’s difficult to say exactly what the jobs available to a space miner will include. However, it’s likely that they will draw on a lot of the same mining expertise currently required on Earth for more terrestrial mining operations. Colorado School of Mines already offers a course in this field.
Of all the jobs on this list, space engineers are the ones with the biggest presence already in 2019. Thanks to the plethora of companies and organizations, both private and publicly-funded, an aerospace engineer with experience developing satellites, rockets, and space shuttles is already a sought-after occupation. But it’s going to get far more so over time.
An unprecedented number of satellites are currently in the process of launching, while rockets are seeing some of their most significant advances in decades. Add in new types of space robots, rovers, and cleanup operations, and there are a ton of jobs soon to open up in space engineering.
If your chosen career isn’t on this list, don’t despair. While there’s also the opportunity to retrain — new space resources courses like that at the Colorado School of Mines focus on supplementary training for people already working — there will be a call for many other professions, too.
“You need people from all sorts of different disciplines,” Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources and Research Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, told Digital Trends. “You need mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, mining experts, computer scientists, geologists, geophysicists, economists. Think about all of the jobs that we have here on Earth. A lot of those are also going to be used when we go to space. It opens up a whole new range of possibilities for new jobs and opportunities.”
In other words, get polishing that CV — and don’t forget to include a line about your general ambivalence toward working in gravity!