Rocket Man

Rockets and space are the stuff of dreams for many little boys and girls. But, for one WLHS grad, it’s his daily reality.

Max Long (’07) is a lead launch engineer with SpaceX in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and, during the five years he’s been with the company, has been involved with 22 missions—ranging from International Space Station resupply, scientific government launches to communications satellite deployments.
Most recently, he helped oversee the takeoff of a Falcon 9 rocket that placed a Japanese communications satellite into space. A significant achievement of the mission was the re-entry and landing of the first stage rocket on an autonomous drone ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

“All the hard work pays off when one of our rockets lift off,” says Long. “It’s exciting and rewarding because I have an enormous amount of responsibility to ensure everything with the second stage of the rocket is ready.”

For Long, his journey to SpaceX wasn’t predetermined. In fact, although he had always been good at math, he didn’t have a specific focus. It wasn’t until he took chemistry and physics at WLHS that his interest in science crystalized.

“My senior year I had physics with Mr. Greschner and that was a turning point for me. He made the class engaging, fun and treated us like adults,” says Long. “We learned about Newton’s Laws of Motion, trajectories, velocity, kinematics and all kinds of things that really interested me. It was physics that directed my path toward engineering.” 

In high school, Long maintained a 3.8 GPA, took multiple AP courses and ran cross country and track. He was accepted into the prestigious Florida Institute of Technology where he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. He continued at Florida Tech and received his master’s in aerodynamics/fluid dynamics while also working as an intern at SpaceX.

In addition to the long hours his job requires, being part of the scientific community has required a strong faith.

“There are diverse viewpoints in the science and technology communities on everything from religion to rocket science,” says Long. “My faith has been a critical part of my path in life and has been invaluable in helping me tackle challenges when they arise.”

(Photo: Max Long ('07) pictured with his fiance, Ashley Pittmann -- "One of the things that helped me the most in college and graduate school was the fact that the teachers at Wisco taught me how to learn and how to apply learning to life situations.")

"I love to inspire and teach others. Honestly, my dream would be to someday return to Wisco to teach math. For me, that would be so rewarding." -- Max Long.

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