Hotel resorts in space. Cruises around the moon.
The ideas may seem as far out as the stars themselves, but aerospace engineer and entrepreneur Allen Herbert says the concepts are actually closer to reality than some may think.
His advice for young professionals, especially those of color?
“Get in on the ground floor.”
Considering himself “almost an evangelist” when it comes to space entrepreneurship, Herbert’s motivation is simple.
“We have a digital divide now, right?” Allen asked in a recent exclusive interview with YBP Guide, noting the gap between people who have access to digital technology and those who do not.
“Well, not it’s really important for us to get involved in new industry so we don’t have a space divide,” he explained.
Although Herbert is an aerospace engineer and graduate of University of Southern California in Los Angeles, he is quick to point out that one doesn’t have to be an engineer to seek space opportunities.
As an example, “look at the airline industry,” Herbert said. “There are pilots and the people who build the planes. And then there are public affairs people, there are writers, business people, investors.”
Those same types of fields will soon be available in the budding space industry, he said. The foundation is being laid for space tourism and travel. And this is outside of government-run agencies like NASA, he added.
“People are already paying money (to reserve trips into space),” Herbert said.
As early as 2012-2013, people will be taking trips in space on private crafts, he explained. The industry will need tour guides, as well as research development for aircrafts, food preparation, construction of space ports and more.
Right now, a trip costs about $200,000, but prices have already been dropping to $100,000, Herbert said.
“It may be just rich people or movie stars right now,” Herbert said. “But again, so were airplane flights at first.”
Herbert is so interested in the possibilities because he said he has a knack for being one step ahead. He translates that particular skill to his consulting business that he founded with former Washington Redskins player Ken Harvey.
JAKA Consulting Group offers small and large companies advice on government affairs, business development and strategic marketing. Through the company, Herbert is able to apply his background as government relations/business development executive to organizations of all kinds. The common themes with JAKA’s clients include innovation, job creation and of course, “making sure they’re a step ahead,” Harvey said.
Throughout his career, Herbert had drifted away from his initial dream of being an astronaut — thoughts he had as a boy watching “Star Trek” or “Land of the Giants.”
But JAKA has also been able to begin carving out a place in the future of space entertainment as well. Harvey and Herbert invented a game called Float Ball, that the New York Times described as “elements of basketball, football and the Lionel Ritchie video for ‘Dancing on the Ceiling.'”
A Float Ball video game is in the works now, but Herbert hopes that eventually, the real thing will be popular in outer space.
Herbert sees the possibilities and he sees them big. He’s also sure of his own venture in space now.
“Oh, I’m going,” he assured.
To help get the word out for others, the Congressional Black Caucus held its first space entrepreneurship forum on Capitol Hill last year, encouraging minority students to pay attention to what’s happening with the space industry.
“One of the things for young, black professionals, or even people still in college, to do is to starting looking at this industry and see what’s there,” Herbert said.
Even if they aren’t able to commit, he added, do the research to see what’s available.
“We cannot wait until everybody is involved and say, ‘Oh wait, there’s a divide,'” Herbert said. “That’s my biggest issue right now.”