EL PASO, Texas -- Jeff Bezos is poised to become the second billionaire to fly to space in the span of nine days, following the trail by billionaire Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew. The launch, scheduled for Tuesday, July 20 will be propelled in part by UTEP alumni.
"Three quarters of the engineers that are working at Blue Origin are graduates of UTEP. There is a close connection between Blue Origin and our engineers here and our aerospace program," UTEP president Heather Wilson said.
Wilson sits as an advisor for Blue Origin, a role she took on order to further grow the relationship between aerospace and UTEP.
"We have sponsorships from NASA to fund research here and we are really good at getting our undergraduate students engaged in that research and doing real things before they graduate from college," Wilson said.
Wilson is no stranger to aerospace science as she served as Secretary of the U.S. Air Force from 2017 through 2019. She also believes in cooperation between private industry companies such as Blue Origin and government agencies like NASA.
"The government doesn't build rockets, they buy them from commercial companies. Likewise, when we go back to the Moon - and NASA is committed to go back to the Moon - and go to Mars and beyond, it is being funded by the government and very wealthy people," Wilson said.
Wilson. who has met with Bezos through his company's advisory board, feels the future of UTEP and space exploration are bright and intertwined.
"We have exceptional students here, and he knows that because he employs them. Like I said, three quarters of the engineers that work in Van Horn and put that system together were educated here at UTEP and we are really proud of that," Wilson said.