Sid Simonson worked on the OSIRIS-REx program, a space mission that collected a sample from an asteroid
When the world watched NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft return to Earth—after seven years spent retrieving a sample of an asteroid—it cheered.
That’s because Simonson, a finance and business operations lead at Lockheed Martin Corporation, worked on the milestone project as its deputy finance lead. The spacecraft, which traveled nearly 4 billion miles, was his first assignment in Lockheed’s Space Operations division.
Simonson watched the return from his home, privately, to soak in the moment, calling it a tremendous occasion.
“It was a big sigh of relief. They showed the control center and all the news on giant monitors, and everyone is tracking it as it hits the atmosphere. It’s so much money and so much science on the line,” he said. “And when it finally happens—when they give the all-clear sign, and it’s successfully landed—it’s such a relief and such a sense of being proud of the company and of NASA and of the country.”
As NASA built OSIRIS-Rex, Simonson was responsible for analyzing data, helping ensure specific parts of the spacecraft arrived on time and on budget.
“It was absolutely fascinating to see how they build a spacecraft,” explained Simonson, who was awarded a NASA Excellence Award for his efforts. “People often see something like that being launched into space or see it in a movie, but what it takes to get that in space is tremendous.”
Although Simonson never anticipated going into aerospace, it was a welcome path.
When he graduated from Colorado State University in 2009, he had his pick of job opportunities. He was slated to become an accountant in Denver, and even committed to a job, but he ended up talking to Lockheed Martin about an opportunity—then completely switched directions. He joined the company’s Financial Leadership Development Program, graduating in 2012, after delivering the program’s graduation speech in Washington, D.C. He joined Lockheed’s Space Operations division shortly thereafter.
While OSIRIS-REx was Simonson’s first space assignment, it wasn’t his last; he has worked on a variety of other projects for Lockheed, including as head finance and business operations lead for the Juno spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Jupiter in hopes of better understanding the planet and, in turn, the formation of the entire solar system. He also has acted as head finance lead for the United Kingdom Space Launch Program and has worked on international satellite programs.
Working for Lockheed has been a dream come true, he said, because he deeply cares about its mission.
“Mankind is destined to be in space, and the United States and Lockheed are at the forefront of exploration,” he said. “The more that Lockheed and NASA and the United States can advance our knowledge and our capabilities, it helps everyone. It helps the world.”
Simonson credits his career with Lockheed for many of his successes, but he also credits another entity for the progress he’s made in his career: the University of Denver and its Daniels College of Business. Simonson graduated from DU with his MBA in finance and economics in public policy in 2014. He then completed a master’s of science and management in 2015. When he was graduating, he was asked if he wanted to serve on the Daniels College of Business Alumni Advisory Board. He accepted and has held a position for the past eight years.
“I credit DU with a lot of my success,” he said. “The MBA programs at DU and the Daniels College of Business are just tremendous; they help you expand your mind.”
For Simonson, it’s all about taking advantage of every opportunity and learning along the way—even when it pushes him outside of his comfort zone.
It’s a mantra he has embraced his whole life. When he returned to school to finish his bachelor’s degree, he was about 10 years older than the average student, which he says was intimidating. He never expected to complete a second master’s degree, let alone teach in a college classroom.
“I have a habit of saying yes to things,” he said. “Constant learning, and constant self-improvement, is my big thing. You become stagnant when you stop learning.”
Lowell Valencia-Miller, assistant dean of MBA programs and a teaching assistant professor, says that Simonson “represents the very best in our Daniels PMBA alumni.”
“Since graduating from the part-time Professional MBA program, Sid has remained in contact with the University through alumni and other campus events. It was through these connections that we were able to find additional opportunities to engage Sid with the DU community,” Valencia-Miller said, adding that Simonson has been incredibly “generous with his knowledge, experience and time.”
One of those opportunities comes in his role as an adjunct faculty member. Simonson has been teaching ethics at Daniels since 2018, which he says was his favorite course while he was in the PMBA program.
“It’s one of the most fun, enjoyable things that I get to do,” he said.
Focusing on ethics, in particular, he said, is “more than a hobby, it’s my passion. Ethics is just a very strong sense of ‘do the right thing.’ It’s about trying to help people do no harm. It’s about thinking about the consequences of your actions.”
Simonson’s other passion, he said, is volunteering. In addition to his work on the Daniels College of Business Alumni Advisory Board, he serves on the Front Range Community College Business School Advisory Board, the Douglas County Cultural Council, the Larimer County Community Corrections Board, and the Military Academy Service Review Board. For his efforts, Simonson has received eight President’s Volunteer Service Awards from the White House.
“Volunteering and helping is my other passion,” he said. “It goes back to the whole ‘saying yes’ thing. You just have to do whatever you can when you’re still able.”