International Students Reach New Heights with Space Fundamentals Program

Space Fundamentals Program

Students from nations around the world learned from Lockheed Martin employees and grew their passion for the space industry while touring the Denver facility.

“What’s out there?”

At 20 years old, Jesus Barrera Perez, an international student at Texas A&M University, is pondering a question that some of the most sophisticated minds have struggled to answer. He and five other international students explored many types of space mysteries while visiting Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems campus in Denver earlier this month as part of the Space Fundamentals Training Program (SFTP). Just in its second year, this program has been expanded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for early career professionals in partnership with the UAE Space Agency and Mubadala. 

The SFTP launched in response to growing demand by Lockheed Martin’s government and commercial customers. Through the program, promising international students from colleges around the U.S. are selected by their nation’s space and cultural ministries and invited to step foot into Lockheed Martin’s facilities for a comprehensive introduction to the space industry. The program’s curriculum includes an online training portion, individual mentor assignments and a rigorous three-week immersion in Denver and Washington, D.C. space organizations.

This year’s group consisted of participants from three countries — the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. The program aims to not only give these students a real-life look into the space industry but also inspire them to pursue careers in the field.

Learning About the Real Stuff

Take Abdullah Alghamdi, for instance. Abdullah, a 22-year-old Saudi Arabian student at Iowa State University, grew up already loving aerospace.

“I loved how airplanes fly and I’m obsessed with the physics behind spacecraft motion,” Abdullah remarked with a smile. After joining Lockheed Martin’s SFTP, he wants to work on designing satellites and spacecraft.  

While in Denver, the students experienced plenty of “real” space activities and also explored beyond Lockheed Martin’s campus. Participants did everything from testing out the Collaborative Human Immersion Lab (CHIL), to meeting Lockheed Martin engineers, to visiting the Colorado State Capitol. Abdullatif Al Hashmi, a 21-year-old UAE student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says the most memorable part of the SFTP was meeting Bruce McCandless — a former NASA astronaut and the first person to complete an untethered spacewalk — and hearing about his space travels.

“He told us that when he looked at earth all he saw was land and water. He couldn’t see the boundaries of different countries. And that reminds us that people on the earth are linked by one goal, which is exploring space,” Abdullatif said.

The unique cross-cultural collaboration between the students and Lockheed Martin personnel further demonstrates that space exploration is a mutually beneficial human endeavor. The SFTP has seen success in supporting emerging, high priority business opportunities for Space Systems Company and Lockheed Martin, while also supporting our partners’ goals of developing into more advanced space economies through workforce development, knowledge transfer, and continued collaboration with international leaders in aerospace. The program is even planning to expand to additional nations next year.

Although the students left Denver on Aug. 7, the knowledge and wisdom gained will not end with the conclusion of their trip. Perez explained that it is crucial for him to pass down his developing passion for space to his home country of Mexico because he doesn’t personally know many Mexicans interested in the space industry.

“After this program, I can dream about going to space … it made it real for me,” he said.

Yael Mata Musy, a 22-year-old Mexican student at New Mexico State University, agrees that the dreaming won’t end when the program does. He hopes to someday be part of the Mexican space industry evolution, and he believes teamwork is the best mode of operation for all countries.

“I think if we work all together between so many countries, we will get to the final goal together, easier,” he explained.

Who knows? Maybe those who came to study in the SFTP will soon be the ones teaming up to lead the charge to inhabit a new planet or explore a new solar system. No matter what, Jesus and the others won’t give up until they are able to satisfy their curiosities and learn more about what’s really out there.

Student MTL Tour

Yael Mata Musy, an international student from Mexico, examines some of the 'real' stuff while on tour of the Lockheed Martin facility. Yael is looking forward to working in the Mexican space industry someday.