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Gainesville native to join SpaceX as rocket scientist
Georgia Tech graduate Benjamin Klein starts work for NASA contractor in August
Gainesville native Benjamin Klein graduated from Georgia Tech this month and has accepted a job as a test engineer for SpaceX, a NASA contractor. His first project will involve developing rockets to help resupply the International Space Station.

Gainesville native Benjamin Klein is about to realize the dream shared by young and old alike.

He’s moving to Los Angeles to be a rocket scientist.

Klein graduated this month from Georgia Tech with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in mechanical engineering.

He was offered a job as a test engineer with SpaceX, a NASA contractor.

SpaceX designs, builds and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, according to the company’s website. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who also founded PayPal and Tesla Motors, to revolutionize space travel and technology, with the goal of empowering people to live on other planets.

Everything the company manufactures is in-house, Klein said. He toured the facility in Los Angeles on Tuesday and said he walked past 200-foot rockets.

Initially, Klein won’t be working on interplanetary missions. His job as test engineer will be dealing with the qualification of all the manufactured parts.

“The overall goal, the reason (Musk) founded the company, is because he wants people to live on Mars,” Klein said. “That is the end goal — to colonize Mars. Currently, he is just taking contracts from NASA in order to really build up his space program, and I’m going to be working on building these rockets.”

One of SpaceX’s current contracts is for resupplying the International Space Station. Klein said his first project at SpaceX will be to help develop rockets for that mission.

“It is going to be a pretty fun job,” he said.

Klein begins work in the position Aug. 3 and will move to Los Angeles two days before. He’ll spend the summer finishing a couple personal research projects before the move.

“I don’t do down time very well, so I’m starting immediately,” he said. “...Once I start out there Aug. 1, they kind of throw you in, and the way they kind of teach you to do your job is to just give you a job and let you try to swim. So I will be working very hard from day one.”

Klein has experience with hard work and product design already, however.

“While I was at Tech, I got a patent at one of the companies I worked for,” he said. “...I worked for a diabetic lancing device company, or a company that creates these little devices that prick your finger to draw blood in order to read your glucose levels.”

The device Klein created and had patented simplifies the finger prick for diabetics, who typically prick their fingers multiple times daily.

“Instead of actually having to open the device to interact with the lancet to prick yourself, it actually secures the needle back inside the cap and disposes of it for you, so you never actually have to interact with the needle itself,” he said.

Klein said he’s excited about his future at SpaceX, and grateful for the rare opportunity.

“It’s becoming an increasingly desirable company to work for,” he said.

“At the Georgia Tech career fair, the line for NASA is about 15 minutes long in order to speak with a rep,” he said. “The line for SpaceX is usually about an hour and 45 minutes.”

In some ways, working for SpaceX is better than working for NASA, in Klein’s opinion.

“NASA has so many rules and regulations now, because it’s so government-owned, that they don’t get to move as fast as they want to,” he said. “... With Elon Musk and SpaceX, he’s trying to move this company as fast as he possibly can. So he is always doing launches, trying to find new contracts and move the company fast.”

Klein said the company’s fast pace means hard work in his future, but he’s looking forward to it.

“They’ve got a saying, ‘If you don’t come to work on Saturday, don’t bother coming in on Sunday,’” Klein said, laughing. “So I’ll be working a lot, but it should be really fun.”