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By: Stephan Spencer


Mark Rocket
“Many of us are so focused on our immediate circles of influence. We rarely reflect on our larger purposes on Earth, and in the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe.”
Mark Rocket

When you think big, beyond your human limitations, beyond this planet, the possibilities for living an extraordinary life are limitless.

If you’re a frequent listener of this podcast as well as my other show, Marketing Speak, you know that one of the themes that runs throughout both shows is infusing business with a higher awareness. My guest on today’s show is a remarkable entrepreneur and citizen of the world who has turned his lifelong passion for space exploration into a world-changing business. Mark Rocket — yes, that is his name, not originally though — is an internet and aerospace entrepreneur. Mark is the CEO of Kea Aerospace, a New Zealand-based company working on building a fleet of solar-powered aircraft flying in the stratosphere. In this episode, Mark shares how he transitioned from being an SEO guy to an aerospace entrepreneur. He explains how Kea Aerospace came to fruition and talks about the two main goals the company upholds. We touch on the many ways we can all be better citizens by listening to each other and working together to solve the issues we’re all facing. If you get excited about pushing boundaries to effect change, this is an eye-opening episode. So, without any further ado, on with the show!

In this Episode

  • [01:55]Mark shares his background of becoming an aerospace entrepreneur. He reveals the story behind the name of his first company, Avatar.
  • [06:54]Mark talks more about how his businesses run and the tragic earthquake experience at Christchurch, where he witnessed the other side of the human spirit.
  • [19:50]Named after a mountain parrot called Kea in New Zealand, Kea Aerospace was established in 2018. What are its two main goals?
  • [25:40]What sparked Mark to go out into space?
  • [27:30]Mark talks about the people he met in the aerospace industry and why he continues pushing for the aerospace industry.
  • [32:53]Circling back to Mark’s animal advocacy and plant-based diet non-profit organization, he discusses his efforts and practices for sustainable living.
  • [39:00]Stephan and Mark discuss veganism and how there should be a balance between their respective values from others.
  • [44:16]Why do we need to unplug from the corporate news cycle and choose our media?
  • [47:55]Mark tells his nugget of wisdom to the younger version of him.
  • [49:10]Visit to watch out for more aerospace industry updates.

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Mark, it’s so great to have you on the show.

Great to be here, Stephan.

We’ve known each other for quite a while; we met in New Zealand. You got your start in the SEO Internet industry back in the ’90s. Do you want to share your origin story of how you got into this and how that led to aerospace?

I left high school, and like many New Zealanders, I did an overseas experience with my backpack and a guitar, went around Europe and Australia, and did quite a bit of traveling and odd jobs around the place. I was going to go to university but never quite made it to university.

In 1994, I got a lucky break when I picked up a job at one of the first Internet companies in Christchurch, New Zealand. I just started as an office boy. I had a hospitality background, so I could work with customers. I started at ground zero there. 

Gradually, I got interested in website marketing. Many people were building websites, getting their domain names, and building basic web pages. That was it. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I didn’t know the next step, similar to your journey, Stephan, where I got intrigued by search engines, how people find websites, and how you can get more traffic. So I started picking up SEO in that ’96–’97 phase. 

Then, I started a company in 1998 called Avatar and also another company called New Zealand Tourism Online, which was a web directory for tourism in New Zealand. Avatar is still operating. It’s an SEO company cranking along here in New Zealand. The focus back then was SEO, but we found it a little early. People didn’t know what search engine optimization was, so we started to build websites with an SEO focus. 

That was a real sweet spot for us for many years, where we built hundreds of websites with a marketing SEO focus and got some great successes there. Using that same methodology, we built up New Zealand Tourism Online as the number one commercial tourism directory in New Zealand. That ended up being purchased by a telecom here in 2006. 

From there, my journey went into other places, such as aerospace. Certainly, those early days of the Internet were fascinating. I felt fortunate to be part of that, watching how things evolved. 

We knew that the Internet would change and become a lot more commercial. Still, back in the mid-90s, it was controlled by university-type people and propeller-head-type people that would deepen the code and be anti-commercial, but obviously, we’ve fully gone down that path now.

Why did you call your first company Avatar?

I was looking for a name that resonated, and I wanted to start with “A” because, back then, things were pretty much alphabetical. I just came across that word. It represents yourself in a digital environment and a super-user-type scenario. It just really resonated. We built the sci-fi logo with blue coloring, et cetera. 

Then obviously, the movie came out several years later. It was a weird scenario that that movie was filmed in New Zealand. I had 20th Century Fox contact me about trademark issues, but we were well set up before that movie came along. 

But I loved that movie. So I’m looking forward to Avatar 2 and 3 coming out soon in the next few years.

That’s cool. Speaking of names, you weren’t born as “Mark Rocket.” Instead, you changed your name to Rocket. How did that come about?

In 2000, I met a few people that had changed their names and thought, “What would I change my name to?” I thought Rocket would be super cool as a name to have. That idea just grew on me. 

The power of the word is so evocative.

The power of the word is so evocative. It would push me out of my comfort zone. It’d be fun and interesting for marketing, but it’s turned out to be this manifestation of getting into the aerospace industry and furthering my interest in aerospace technology. It’s weird how it’s all worked out.

So you didn’t know when you changed your name that you would get into the aerospace industry and that you weren’t the next rocket man. You just thought, “Oh, that sounds like a fun name.”

I’ve always been fascinated by space technology growing up as a kid. I started with Lego Space and evolved by reading many science fiction books and watching movies. 

My number one favorite film was Alien. It’s just gritty trackers and space and has more realism than Star Wars or Star Trek in some areas. I was fascinated by technology and the future. 

In 2000, I had these aspirations, but growing up in Christchurch, New Zealand, we didn’t have a space industry. There was no military-industrial complex with a lot of development, so it seemed like a galaxy far away to be able to aspire to be involved in the space industry from New Zealand. It was certainly something that I have always been interested in. There are a lot of other computer geeks that have an interest in space. 

Cyberspace and space correlate. If you look at Jeff Bezos, he puts $1 billion a year into his Blue Origin project. Elon Musk came from PayPal. Co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, funded the Virgin Galactic Spaceship. So there are a whole lot of Internet geeks that are also space geeks, and I’m one of them.

Cool. You’ve made a big transition and pivot in your life, going from Internet industry stuff to aerospace. 

Are you still running, or do you still own Avatar, or did you end up selling that? Have you completely disavowed yourself of all the Internet tech companies and areas of focus to go full-on in aerospace?

There are a whole lot of Internet geeks that are also space geeks, and I’m one of them.

I certainly pull back a lot. I have a team that runs Avatar, and they’re doing a great job. I sold New Zealand Tourism Online to a telecom in 2006. I’m doing very little in the Internet industry compared to where I was. 

These days, I’m the CEO of Kea Aerospace, which is building a solar-powered aircraft that will fly in the stratosphere for months. That’s a really exciting, engaging, and full-on project. So that’s a heck of a lot of fun and fascinating. 

Maybe stepping back on how I got involved with the aerospace industry, when I did make that sale, I had a bit of gas in the tank and thought about some fun stuff I could do. Also, in 2000, I wrote down my life goal of going to space one day. 

In 2006, I was in that position to look at opportunities, and Virgin Galactic was selling its suborbital space flights. So I went onto, got in touch with them, and started talking about what they offer. It sounded incredibly compelling and a lot of fun. 

Being part of the first group of diverse international people was interesting, so I signed up with them early on. I made many cool trips and talked with Virgin Galactic and others who signed up. 

In 2006, as part of one of those first events, I went to the International Space Development Conference in LA and heard Elon Musk talking. Other people are talking about this growing space industry, but I realized that most of that activity was happening in one half of the planet. There was very little going on in the southern hemisphere. It would be great to get something happening in New Zealand and Australia.

When I returned to New Zealand, I started talking to people about that. Peter Beck had an idea for a rocket company, so we talked about it together. 

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In 2007, we started commercial operations of Rocket Lab. Many people thought we were nuts because New Zealand didn’t have that aerospace pedigree. It seemed far-fetched for someone from New Zealand to start a viable space business, but we just pushed along. 

In 2009, we had our first suborbital space launch, which went well. From there, we won contracts with Australian and American agencies that put us on the map. 

Now, Rocket Lab has an orbital program. There’s a mission on the way to the moon that Rocket Lab launched. I’m incredibly proud to see where that company has gone. It employs hundreds of people in New Zealand and America and is a success story.

That’s awesome. How did you end up leaving that? That sounded like your dream gig. You were co-running that company, which you’re incredibly passionate about, and you were the seed investor. You provided that first bit of fuel to get the business up and running. So I’m curious, why leave it?

It was incredibly exciting to be a part of that startup journey. At the commencement of the company, Peter and I agreed that we didn’t want to get into military projects too much. Then in 2011, it worked out that the biggest commercial opportunity that the company had was for a military project that I wasn’t that keen on. 

It made commercial sense for the company, but it wasn’t something I felt passionate about, so I stepped out. I also had young kids. Around that time, we had some earthquakes here in Christchurch, which affected things quite a lot. Quite an amazing thing for the city to go through.

Our words hold evocative power. Words can help, heal, and humble, or hurt, harm, and humiliate.

It reshaped the entire city. The downtown was completely unrecognizable. I had already moved out of Christchurch by that point, thankfully, but it was devastating.

To live through that was amazing. One hundred eighty-five people died, and thousands of people were injured. It just decimated the whole inner city, but here we are now. Tragically, that happened, but I think people in Canterbury have a strong identity. 

To go through your whole city breaking apart, you see a lot of kindness in society, and people help each other a lot. It makes you see that side of the human spirit where we all work together and want to fix things. So it was great to be a part of it in some ways.

That’s really important work when you’re doing stuff to help lead people out of a tragedy or something that shakes their core foundation. You can help people through that and be light through the darkness. That’s more important than making a cool, new widget and a big pile of money.

Yeah. I had young children, so I wanted to slow down. I’d had a crazy few decades, so I’d want to be there for them growing up. 

Also, we’re a nonprofit organization for animal advocacy. That organization has been doing great things to push animal rights and plant-based options. That has made a difference here. It was great to be part of that journey.

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In 2017, I was thinking about what I wanted to do next. Do I want to go to the Internet again or do aerospace? Then, I realized I had unfinished business in the aerospace area. 

In 2018, I set up Kea Aerospace. The two main goals were to help build the aerospace ecosystem here in the South Island and Canterbury in Christchurch, where I live, and to find another interesting aerospace project. 

In 2010, we started these meetups and started connecting aerospace people here. That’s gone incredibly well. We’ve got a bunch of companies doing advanced aviation and space projects. 

The University of Canterbury has been producing fantastic graduates. It bugged me that these graduates had to go off to Auckland or overseas to work in the aerospace industry, so I was very keen to see more jobs established here in the city. It’s been great to see that growth and flourishing. 

I’ve worked with many people, and it’s gone incredibly well. We’ve got Dawn Aerospace, a rocket plane company based here in Christchurch. Many other advanced aviation-type projects are doing really interesting work. 

Christchurch, New Zealand is a great place to do research and development for aerospace.

Christchurch, New Zealand, in general, is a great place to do R & D for aerospace. We’ve got low population density, open skies, and variable terrain, so we’re a great testbed for technology. It attracted people from around the world to come and set up shop here and do interesting stuff.

In 2019, we got some funding for an aerospace strategy for the city. That brought all the key stakeholders together, from the university, city council, central government, and aligned people. Now, aerospace is recognized by the city as one of the key growth areas.

A couple of weeks ago, I was actually on a trade delegation with the deputy mayor of Christchurch. It was a trade delegation to Adelaide in South Australia. Adelaide got the Australian space agency headquarters, and they have a lot of really interesting stuff going on there, so it was great for the city to exchange ideas and help each other grow these aerospace industries. So we’ve got a lot of momentum and excitement. 

On September 5th, we got our first New Zealand Aerospace Summit. We’re bringing together all of the aerospace participants around New Zealand to help build an aerospace nation. So we’ve got a lot of really exciting momentum building here.

That’s cool. Does Christchurch have a place to shoot off rockets, or does it have to happen out of the Auckland area or elsewhere?

At the moment, Rocket Lab is launching from the North Island on the East Coast, a place called the Mahia Peninsula, which is just a spectacular launch location. Originally, Rocket Lab wanted to launch here just near Christchurch.

The government has bought a whole bunch of land on the coast. It’s a partnership with local rūnanga, local indigenous tribes here and the government. They’re looking at reestablishing some ecological aspects of the land and using it as an R&D aerospace testbed. So, potentially, we could have a spaceport in Christchurch in 2030. 

There could be some rocket launchers. NASA did launch in the area called Kaiteriteri in partnership with the University of Canterbury in the 1960s. I’d love to see space launches here again. We’ll see what happens, but there’s a lot of local interest in developing that capability, and people are doing test flights around the region. 

We’ve got another place called Tekapo and Wisk, which Boeing owns. They’ve been doing a bunch of beyond-visual line-of-sight flights out of that area. There are several other locations where people have done test flights.

How did you end up focusing on solar-powered aircraft that fly for months at a time in the stratosphere? That is a very specialized use case. What problem are you trying to solve there? How did you end up coming across that?

As I said, I had two main goals when I started Kea Aerospace. One was to help build the ecosystem, connect people, and work with others, and the second was to try and find an interesting aerospace project. 

I started to hang out at the university, trying to meet interesting people. One of those people I met was Dr. Philipp Sueltrop. Interestingly, he came to New Zealand to do his Ph.D. because he saw that Rocket Lab had been involved with the University of Canterbury and had some great expertise. He came from Germany and set up here. So I contacted them, and we started talking about different ideas. 

We initially thought about some orbital payload-type scenario because we have that orbital launch capability. I was originally interested in space hardware type of applications but realized that so many universities and companies worldwide are building cube sets and doing interesting stuff. They’ve got way more funding than we can easily access here in New Zealand. 

We started looking around for other kinds of projects. Phillip came up, and he saw these other projects that had been working on stratospheric flight and realized as we dug into it that that is something that New Zealand could do. So it’s a fascinating area.

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If you think about it, you’ve got satellites that are orbiting at hundreds of kilometers. It might be 400-plus kilometers orbiting the Earth. We’re using them for Earth observation, but because the satellites are so far away, it is hard to take a high-resolution image. Most high-resolution images of the land or sea come from crewed or manned aircraft flying, which is inefficient and costly. As a result, these are big data gaps at the moment. We just aren’t getting that full data picture. 

For example, here in Canterbury, we only get a high-resolution map of the regional map about once every four years. It takes a long time to go back and forth and do that mapping. It’s pretty old-school. They’ve got a plane, a hard drive and a camera, and they chuck that on, go back and forth, take the hard drive off the plane, and take it back to the office. It’s laborious. There are a lot of scopes to improve that.

You think about planes that might fly at 5–10 kilometers altitude. It’s very expensive and burns a lot of F-gas. The stratospheric vehicles fly at around 20 kilometers altitude, about 65,000 feet. You’re above the jet streams and all the weather. 93% of the Earth’s heating is below you, so you’ve only got about 7% up there. So you need a huge wingspan glider type of incredibly light aircraft. If you can use solar power, then that’s a great way just to have it flying continuously for four months at a time. 

Right now, we’ve got the Airbus aircraft, flying for over 40 days over America. We’ve a few companies worldwide that have proven their stratospheric flight capability.

You can’t fix the problem if you can’t see it.

In the 2020s, we’re going to see some huge developments in this area, particularly around communications and Earth observation. We’ll be able to finally get that full, high-resolution data picture that will make so much of a difference with really important applications such as disaster management with floods, fires, and earthquakes and quickly seeing what’s going on. 

Maritime domain awareness and environmental monitoring are something that we’re very passionate about. You can’t fix the problem if you can’t see it. This is going to give the full picture of what is going on. There are so many different applications where this full data picture will make such a huge difference.

You named this company Kea Aerospace. Is that after the New Zealand parrot, Kea?

Yeah. Here on the South Island of New Zealand, we have a mountain parrot called the Kea. It’s a beautiful bird, very cheeky and extremely intelligent but disruptive. When people go up into the mountains to go skiing, they love to take the rubber out of the windows and do all sorts of things. 

It’s great to have that emblem for our company. So we can take up some of those traits of being disruptive in the industry and interestingly doing things.

I’m curious if there was a certain moment in your childhood when maybe you saw a shooting star, a UFO, or what they would call a UAP now. It’s just to mess with our heads. That’s the new acronym that the US government has come up with. What was the thing or moment that sparked everything for you and this desire to go out into space?

I’m a Star Wars generation kid. I grew up with all that great technology and ideas, but growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there was so much information available. We had these great books, and all these great films are coming out. So I just was particularly intrigued. 

I remember an initial project where we just named the solar system’s planets. Then, as I started thinking about the solar system, galaxies, and universe, I found all the concepts mind-blowing.

It still surprises me that more people don’t think about humanity’s place in the universe. We’re very focused on our little immediate area, but we rarely step back and have that overview of where we are on the earth, solar system, galaxy, and universe. 

I always found those big concepts fascinating. It hurts your mind when you start thinking about infinity. When did the universe begin? How did it begin? What was before the universe began? All that stuff is mind-warping but incredibly intriguing. So exploring that was fascinating for me.

How many trips to space did you have? Were they all on Virgin Galactic? Did you ever do that Russian rocket—I forget what it’s called—that takes people up to the International Space Station for $20 million? Did you ever do that?

I haven’t done that, but I’m still waiting in line with Virgin Galactic. There are about 70 of us that are in this Virgin Galactic founders group. 

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They’ve had a few issues along the way. Initially, around 2009, a nitrous oxide tank explosion killed three people and injured three others badly in Mojave. 

Then, around 2014, they had a spacecraft that disintegrated in flight. Unfortunately, one of the members of the flight crew died on that flight, but amazingly, one of them survived. 

Many things along the way have made it difficult for Virgin Galactic to upscale that one-person vehicle—the XPRIZE—into a six-passenger or four-passenger aircraft that can fly commercially.

We saw Richard Branson go up last year. It was great to see him do that flight. Now, we’re waiting for commercial operations to begin. I’m just waiting patiently. The Virgin Galactic team has been fantastic. Hopefully, next year, we might be getting close to starting those commercial flights.

Speaking of the XPRIZE, do you know Peter Diamandis?

I did meet him at one of the Virgin Galactic events. He’s an incredible person. Everything that he has been part of is so inspiring.

He’s got this mastermind called Abundance360. I did that mastermind for a few years. So that was good; I recommend it.

I’ve met many different people in the aerospace industry, meeting Brian Binnie, one of the pilots of SpaceShipOne, and Peter Diamandis. So many inspiring people are doing fascinating things that help push the aerospace industry along. 

If you think back to the Apollo program in the 1960s, what was achieved in 10 years was phenomenal. So there was a huge motivation for the country to do that. 

Then, things started to slow down in 1981 or 1982. The Space Shuttle launched for the first time. That was meant to be a cost-effective way to get people and cargo to space. They were aiming for about a $50 million budget per launch, which ended up being about $1 billion per launch. It blew out the cost and slowed down many of the space plans. 

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If you think back to Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, where are the space, hotels, moon bases, and all those space flights? We’re over 30 years behind schedule where we could have been if we had kept up that investment in space technology. 

It’s really exciting now that we’re finally seeing this investment. We’ve got this convergence of technology with miniaturization, computing power, and new materials. Now, we can do things in a way better way. 

You see SpaceX with their reusable rocket program. They’re just doing things way more cost-effectively. Having Elon Musk with these bold plans to go to the Moon and Mars is fantastic. These inspiring leaders will be tremendous for the aerospace industry internationally. It will inspire people to want to get involved a lot more.

Some people say to me, why space? We’ve got so many problems on Earth. Why do we need space technology? Many of Earth’s problems will be solved if we look to space. We can harness the sun’s energy directly from space and mine Helium-3. We don’t need to be digging up the Earth. We can mine asteroids. 

Living in space sustainably will bring that technology to live more sustainably on Earth. So, just like the Apollo program sparked so many great technologies and advanced so many areas, this new pace of space development will greatly help things on Earth.

Speaking of sustainable living, it circles back to your animal advocacy and plant-based diet nonprofit work you did. Can you speak more about that? That is different from Internet technology and aerospace.

At about 24, I became a vegetarian, and I’ve always been interested in that area. 2011 when I started on the board of SAFE for animals, which was an animal advocacy organization. I became vegan at that point. 

Animal agriculture and that industry hasn’t been that kind to animals. Do we need to consume that amount of meat, dairy, and animal products? The planet will be way better off if we reduce that activity. Even just making a liter of milk takes over 1000 liters of water. It’s just not that great for the environment, and it’s not that great for the animals. 

It’s like The Matrix. When you start going down the rabbit hole and look into it more often, you realize how bad it is. 

A lot of people don’t think about that glass of milk. You’ve got female cows that produce that milk, but where do all the little male calves or bobby calves go? In many countries like New Zealand, there are a few days or a week old, and they get left out at the farm gate. A truck comes to pick them up and take them away. 

There are a lot of things that people don’t realize about the animal agriculture industry. The more you look into it, the more you’re aware and make a choice. For me, it was clear what choice I needed to make.

I remember I was living in New Zealand at the time with my daughters and my then-wife. My daughters had already become vegetarian. My middle daughter was working on a school project. She needed help importing some videos from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). This was a PowerPoint presentation that she was giving on why to become vegetarian. 

I had to keep watching these hidden camera videos because the import kept not working. I kept trying different things to make the import work into PowerPoint. Seeing these hidden camera videos of chickens being stepped on is upsetting and disturbing. 

The more you shine the spotlight of truth, the more visibility you get until things hit in the right direction.

Some really cruel workers will do stuff like put the cigarette out in the chicken’s eye. It’s crazy and sick. What kind of tormented soul would do that to an innocent animal? 

That was what switched me to becoming a vegetarian myself. I’ve been a vegetarian ever since.

Luckily, it’s only a small minority of people that work in the animal industry that do that. But, the reality is at the organization I’ve worked at, we had a lot of people that worked in the industry that would give us information and tell us what was happening. 

Many farmers want to be proud of what they do. So they do make efforts to make things comfortable where they can. We are seeing this trend. It’s about shining the spotlight of truth on this stuff. The more you do that, the more visibility you get, and the better things will hit in the right direction. 

We’re seeing this massive wave of interest in plant-based foods and living. It’s fantastic. I look at my kids’ generation, and there are so many more of them now that are moving in that direction. 

Here in New Zealand, we can go to the shops and easily get plant-based food. Compared to 20 years ago, it was hard and difficult, but nowadays, it’s really easy to live comfortably and have all the great foods you like. 

We’re seeing these amazing transitions and real awareness that will keep growing, but there’s a battle among the people who want to hold on to their old ways. Many people are very proud of their meat-eating lifestyle, and there’s always going to be that tension, but we’re seeing a huge wave of interest and change toward plant-based living. It’s going to be fascinating to see where that ends up in the next 10-30 years.

There’s a directory—I don’t know if it’s popular in New Zealand, but it’s popular here in the States—called of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Do you have anything like that or a Yelp-type resource in New Zealand?

Yeah. We’ve got a bunch of those directories, so it’s easy to find vegetarian and vegan food. There are so many restaurants, and cafes around that do that. We’re really lucky in New Zealand to have that awareness.

We’re seeing a huge wave of interest and change toward plant-based living.

I have not had that many conversations over the years on this podcast about vegetarianism or veganism, even though I have been vegetarian and, for a while, I was vegan. So it’s been at least 15-20 years since I became vegetarian. 

I see people passionate about plant-based diets, vegetarianism, and veganism because they want to instill their values in everybody else. It’s very hard to converse with somebody who believes strongly in that and doesn’t listen to the other side. People will shut off. 

I’m sure you’ve heard this joke before. How do you tell if somebody’s vegan? They’ll let you know. That’s not a joke. It’s very real. I want to be mindful of not pushing my values and agenda on other people, especially if they’re not ready for it. What’s your take on that?

I agree. You go through this evangelical stage where you want to tell everyone about veganism. Many people who can be described as annoying vegans tend to be new to the game. During those first few years, people have a lot of energy around that, and some people will maintain that, but a lot of people just settle down and want to live things their way. They’ll bring it up if they’re asked. 

I never bring it up unless people say, “Oh, I see you ordered the vegan option, ” and then they’ll ask you about it. After that, I’ll mention it, but I dislike pushing the ideas too much. So I will just inform you where to look up information.

The same way the Apollo program sparked many great technologies, this new pace of space development is going to help us live more sustainably on Earth.

People must see the full story. We get so many messages in the media sponsored by the meat industry or the dairy industry, and people also need to see the other side of the story. 

It’s about balance. People need to be able to choose. They need to see the accurate truth of what’s happening and what these industries are doing to the environment and animals and let people decide if they want to support that. 

Especially 10–20 years ago, there was a lot of stuff that was hidden and a lot of things that people didn’t want to talk about. Even Greenpeace, I’ve been a supporter of Greenpeace for many years. Here in New Zealand, they did not want to take on the dairy industry for a long time until there was a change of leadership, and they felt that plant-based living was a little more reasonable. Then, they finally started to take on the dairy industry. 

It’s such a powerful lobby group here, and so many people are deeply invested in it that you need a clear strategy for taking on that behemoth. I’ll talk to people about what I believe, but I certainly don’t want to push it down people’s throats, as this is how you got to do things. Hopefully, there can be respect on both sides.

For somebody open to considering vegetarianism or at least a mostly plant-based diet, a great movie documentary to watch is The Game Changers on Netflix. Have you seen that?

Yes. Some really good documentaries have come out. They’re good at getting people interested and being given more information about what’s going on.

Forks Over Knives is also very good.

A little while ago, you mentioned The Matrix and going down the rabbit hole. What other areas have you gone down that rabbit hole, seen The Matrix, or gotten into maybe dark dystopian paths and had to unplug from it?

If you watch the news cycle and all that, it’s easy to get bummed out about things, but most people are decent. Most people are good. I saw that in the earthquakes. People want to help each other out. Most people are great. You have to unplug from the corporate news cycle and choose your media. That’s something that’s helped me a lot.

I’m a fairly optimistic person. The times I do get pessimistic are when I’m consuming too much of that stuff. 

You have to unplug from the corporate news cycle and choose your media.

There’s an audiobook I’m listening to at the moment called Humankind. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the book, Humankind, but it talks about many tropes and stuff that we believe is untrue. For example, Lord of the Flies type of books had a huge imprint on Western society, but is it even true? If he did leave a bunch of kids on an island, would they turn feral, or would they work together? 

One of the examples in the book is about six Tongan kids that ended up taking a boat, flooding along the ocean for about eight or nine days, ending up on an island in Fiji, and living there for over a year. They worked together and did incredibly well. 

Most people want to work it out and help each other. We must be careful when we think that most people are bad and don’t want to do the wrong thing. Is that true? That’s interesting to me at the moment.

Formerly, I’ve been a musician, so I play guitar and sing and have done quite a bit of that stuff. It was great to have that creative element in my life. I haven’t been playing guitar so much lately, but it’s something I’d like to get back into at some point.

But right now, I’m fully engaged with Kea Aerospace. We’ve got this team, we were building the solar-powered aircraft, and it’s just an incredible journey to be part of. We’ve got an amazing skill set. 

Finding that passion is a key thing in my life. I’ve had ups and downs, and a lot of people do. I’ve only had a couple of good ideas in my life. 

I’m in one of those zones where I’m lucky to have this mission that I’m passionate about and to be surrounded by fantastic people.

When you get that real excitement about something, you’ve got to follow it. That’s something that I’ve had some success in. You just get that intuition and deep excitement about something. Then, when you do, if you’re lucky enough to get that thing, you’ve got to go all in and just go after that. 

I’m in one of those zones where I’m lucky to have this mission that I’m passionate about and to be surrounded by fantastic people. Being part of something that is making a difference is incredibly exciting.

Yes, it is. If you had one thing to tell your younger self, if you’re going through a hard time or trying to figure things out, what would you tell that younger version of you, and at what point in your life would you send that message?

I’ve certainly had rocky parts of my life where I haven’t had the self-belief or valued myself as much as I could have. So just follow your dream, and don’t lose hope. That’s a huge thing. 

If you lose that hope that you can make a positive difference, you can go into some dark places. But if you can find those areas where you can make a difference and feel like you’re making a contribution, it can open up all these vistas of opportunity.

Finding hope in things in your life where you can make a difference and contribution can open up vistas of opportunity.

You’re an inspiring guy. Thank you for sharing your story and all the amazing stuff you’re up to. Where would we send folks to if folks wanted to follow you on social media and read your blog if you have one, your YouTube channel, or any of that?

We can check out and check out what we’re doing there. You’ll see some social media links at the bottom of that webpage. That’s the best way to stay in touch with what we’re up to. 

We’ve been quiet lately on social media, but we will make many really exciting announcements over the next year. Our first stratospheric flight is scheduled for January or February next year. We’ve got a bunch of other stuff coming up.

That might have launched by the time this episode airs. We were recording in 2022, but this episode is scheduled to air in 2023.

It’ll be great to know where things are at by then. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a crystal ball if you knew some of those key milestones coming up? It’s better not to, but in some ways, it would be fascinating to tweak things.

Could be. Thank you so much, Mark. And thank you, listener. I hope this inspires you to shoot for the stars and do something you think might be impossible. Do it anyway. We’ll catch you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links

Checklist of Actionable Takeaways

?Be conscious of the words I speak. Words have the energy and power to help, uplift, and heal or to hurt, harm, and humiliate.

?Discover the kindness of the human spirit and strive to become a part of it. When there’s a need, like a calamity or devastation, set aside differences and unite with others to fix and improve things.

?Join and support non-profit organizations that promote sustainable living, environmental awareness, disaster management, and other ways to make a difference. Simple acts can produce enormously positive world impacts when people work together.

?Learn about the potential of space exploration to help solve the Earth’s problems. For example: harnessing the sun’s energy directly from space, mining asteroids, etc.

?Be aware of the animal agriculture industry’s ethical and environmental issues—research ways to reduce detrimental activity to positively impact animal welfare and the environment.

?Don’t impose my beliefs on others. Instead, allow them to choose the best paths for themselves and for their loved ones.

?Find my life’s passion. Passion gives me the determination to work hard. Passion makes what I’m doing fun while I make a positive difference in the world.

?Follow my intuition. When I feel excitement about a situation, follow my intuition. My intuition will help me make decisions quickly and adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

?Don’t lose hope. Life may be full of discouraging circumstances but allow the dream in my heart to light my path as I walk this Earth. Hope will allow me to find the spark in myself that allows me to make a difference in this world.

?Check out Kea Aerospace’s website to learn more about their work, stay updated on their exciting announcements, and keep in touch with them.

About Mark Rocket

Mark Rocket is an internet and aerospace entrepreneur. He was the seed investor and co-Director of Rocket Lab (from 2007 to 2011). Mark is CEO of Kea Aerospace, a company that is building a global fleet of solar-powered aircraft that fly in the stratosphere.

Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments, or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Stephan Spencer, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.


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