Aiming for the Stars

Every once in a while you come across someone with a Big Dream. A dream so larger than life and ambitious that many are quick to dismiss it and stamp it out. What makes Renier Naude’s dream of becoming an astronaut through NASA different then, is that no amount of skepticism, doubt and obstacles in the road have managed to deter him from his path and extinguish his fire.

Renier Naude

Renier Naude

Although only a tender 22 years old and years away from being qualified to launch into space, Renier is whole-heartedly committed to running the race and reaching the finish line – even if it means taking the long way around. After matriculating in 2002 with no money to further his studies, he was advised to pursue his pilot’s license. Unfortunately, as a white male without financial backing, he came short on the politically-directed selection process, but while his dream of getting his PPL went down in flames, his drive and determination kept burning inside him.

For the remainder of the year, Renier worked at Video Town and as a driver for a company called Ember, and even tried his hand at ER24 for two months, before realising medicine wasn’t his true calling. It was only in 2004, after hearing about African Academy through an engineering contractor that he decided to take the mechanical engineering route to NASA, and use the Academy’s General Draughting course as a launch pad from which to reach this qualification.

Armed with his academic N3 and a strong endorsement from his high school, Renier applied at the Academy for a sponsorship and was accepted into the one-year Draughting course. After a year of putting his head down and working hard, he found himself with two placement offers – one through the Academy at a steel company in Witbank, and the other a private offer through Motomo Projects. Based in Boksburg, relocating to Witbank was not an attractive offer at the time, and for this reason, together with the fact that Motomo were prepared to sponsor him to study further, Renier joined the then eight-man Motomo team where he has worked as a draftsman and mechanical engineer in the drawing office since December 2004.

Two-and-a-half years later, Motomo Projects has continued to grow and Renier is well-aware that he made the right decision. The company has recognised his potential, and true to their word, has sponsored him to study his N6 at Springs College. This year July he will be resuming his sponsored S4 on a full-time basis which will see him studying for six months at a time, and working the remainder of each year as stipulated in his employment contract. At this pace, he expects to have completed his degree by 2010, after which he will need to complete his D-Tech (doctorate in mechanical engineering), which will see him applying at NASA at the still-eligible age of 32 or 33 years old.

Although this is inarguably a long route to becoming an astronaut, Renier maintains that by the end of his long marathon to the Milky Way, he will have acquired invaluable theoretical knowledge which he will have had the benefit of seeing in application through on-the-job experience – something you miss out on by going the shorter varsity route and something which will definitely be an advantage to him in the selection process.

Renier may just view his draughting qualification through the Academy as a means to another end, but nevertheless, he is grateful to the Academy for having provided the launch pad for his career and helping him navigate his course to his dream destination. To aspiring astronauts out there he has this to say: “Don’t be deterred by cynics out to derail your dream. Be your own biggest believer and the force will be with you!”