Ron Sparkman was watching TV in his Myrtle Beach apartment seven years ago when he came across a show he’d never seen before — “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” It changed his life.
“I didn’t know who Neil deGrasse Tyson was, and I didn’t really know who Carl Sagan was,” Sparkman said. “Space wasn’t my interest. My science interest when I was young was that I wanted to be a paleontologist, but that didn’t happen. I dealt with some stuff in school — some bullying things — and I ended up quitting school before I graduated. I ended up DJing.”
Then 32 years old and having spent the previous 15 traveling from place to place to perform at weddings and nightclubs, Sparkman had seen some of the world, but he said “Cosmos” made him realize just how big and mysterious the universe that surrounds it truly is.
“I watched the first 15 minutes of the show and I was completely blown away,” he said. “They talk about the ‘cosmic address’ in the universe: Here’s Earth and here’s our place in the solar system, and it just kept going out further and further and further and further. I honestly had no real understanding of the scope of just how big the observable universe is. So that completely blew my mind.”
Today Sparkman makes his living sharing his excitement about the universe with other people as a space science communicator for the Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy center and museum founded in Colorado Springs in 1983. The organization hosts the annual space symposium at The Broadmoor as well as talks featuring experts in the field.
“His journey began with his launch of Stardom Space, a one-stop shop for everything space news. Through this, he formed deep relationships with all the major players in space science communication and grew his website and his following astronomically,” said Rich Cooper, the Space Foundation’s vice president of communications, and Kevin Orangers, executive director in Sparkman’s nomination form. “His success led to a permanent role on the staff of the Space Foundation, where he has taken our social media management and outreach to the next level.”
Mid-February, Sparkman was anxiously awaiting the successful touchdown of NASA’s new rover, Perseverance, on the surface of Mars.
“It’s going to be looking for the possibility of life on Mars, which is exciting,” he said. “Where could we find life in the solar system? Mars is one of those places that maybe had life at one point, and might still have life now, microbial life.”
In 2020, Sparkman had the opportunity to interview Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, which became the first private company in history to launch astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station in 2020. Musk’s next big goal is to establish a human colony on Mars sometime this century.
Sparkman said he wants to be on board.
“I don’t need to be the first one,” Sparkman said. “I can be in the first 10,000, 100,000 or million. I don’t care. I just want to be able to go in my lifetime and see that next step in humanity moving forward.”