Steve Smith: Astronaut, MBA, Director, Diplomat, Athlete
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Steve Smith has a one-of-a-kind background: space, business, engineering, and diplomacy. This mix allows Steve to connect the dots with credibility: how lessons learned in exploration ventures can increase performance for individuals, teams, and leadership. As a keynote speaker he delivers specific, actionable advice and connects with crowd members regardless of audience size using personal stories, transparency, gorgeous photography, and a delivery varying from serious to humorous.



Steve identified his dream – reflected in childhood drawings – to be an astronaut at age 7. That dream came true despite a 4-day near death experience at age 15, medical flight disqualifications from the Air Force and NASA, and four rejections from the Astronaut Corps.


After selection by NASA, Steve was the first assigned to fly in his class. He flew on 4 space shuttle missions and performed 7 spacewalks, including 5 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. He ranked third on the all-time historical world spacewalk duration list at the completion of his flight career.


Steve traveled 16 million miles in space, but he was a Stanford MBA first. He remains the only person to enter the Astronaut Corps with an MBA. He has two electrical engineering degrees from Stanford, serves as director on multiple boards, and consults to Silicon Valley venture capitalists. At IBM he led an R&D team in semiconductor fabrication and as a Product Manager co-led definition of a product and its sales force rollout.


The United States Astronaut Corps is an elite organization featuring incredibly talented personnel. Steve rose to the second in command position – the Deputy Chief Astronaut – and managed the daily operations, policy development, and aircraft use of the 125-member Astronaut Corps.


For 12 years residing in Europe, Steve served as a Diplomat in the role of the United States’ space station negotiating representative to the European Space Agency and associated barters with the Russian Space Agency. He facilitated this multi-national effort to reach consensus while balancing financial, technical, and political realities.


Steve was a 7-time All American in swimming and water polo and a two-time NCAA Champion with the Stanford water polo team. He was captain of the 1980 national championship team.


Steve has been happily married for 28 years. The family's two children are pursuing science degrees in college.

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SPEECH Topics & Outcomes


Exploration is a dangerous and unpredictable endeavor. To cope with risky and dynamic environments, explorers rely on critical attributes such as creative thinking, resilience to setbacks, and perseverance. These attributes define the “explorer’s mindset.”

Steve Smith began dreaming of being an astronaut at age 7. Through nearly three decades of sheer determination, he overcame a near death experience and multiple rejections by NASA to become one of America’s most experienced astronauts and spacewalkers. He rode the space shuttle into space four times and went outside the shuttle seven times to perform spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and to build the Space Station.

Early in life, Steve was inspired to adopt the tenacity and habits of iconic explorers. He applied that mindset to guide him on his long path to NASA and to succeed and survive as an astronaut. In this speech, Steve will reveal how individuals and teams can and must adapt the explorer’s mindset so that they thrive in today’s fast-paced, dynamic business environment. The presentation will help you:

  • Understand and use the explorer's mindset to improve your life and work
  • Identify the key practises of a successful exploration team
  • Jump start your team to be competitive in today's business environment


Strong, effective leadership is a cornerstone of exploration ventures where leaders must make difficult decisions under pressure that carry risk to people’s lives. Leaders in the human spaceflight business process massive amounts of information in a complex, dynamic and fast-paced environment under the added constraints of budgets, stakeholders, schedules, and growing foreign and domestic competition. Business leaders face a similar environment in today’s global economy and they can benefit from exploration leadership techniques.

Steve Smith spent 28 years at NASA on both sides of exploration. He is one of America’s most experienced crew members and spacewalkers with four space flights and seven spacewalks. On Earth, he served in the number two leadership position in the Astronaut Corps, led multiple teams in development, failure investigation, and spacewalking, and was an overseas negotiator and Diplomat for 12 years in Europe.

Steve will describe the practices of leadership in the hazardous and dynamic field of human spaceflight. He will reveal how these practices can be used by business leaders on Earth so that they are effective in today’s competitive global business arena. The presentation will help you:

  • Learn the prime practices by leaders in volatile, uncertain, and complicated exploration ventures
  • Use the techniques of exploration leaders to improve your purpose-driven team’s cohesiveness, resilience, and success
  • Understand the cornerstone philosophy that is common to exploration and business leadership


Steve Smith has traveled fast, really fast: Mach 25. That’s 25 times the speed of sound. He did it only after a three-decade effort to fulfill a childhood dream expressed in several of his colorful childhood drawings.

Along the way NASA rejected him four times and even rejected him permanently (or so thought NASA) by medically disqualifying him. He’ll describe what inspired him to continue and he’ll provide advice for audiences of all ages on overcoming disappointment and how to feel strong and inspired. Riding the rocket on four space missions, performing seven spacewalks, and traveling 16 million miles was magical and changed Steve’s perspective.

Through his personal stories, gorgeous photos, and a passion and skill for sharing his space experiences, Steve reveals how spaceflight can be everything from joyous to serious to humorous.

Seeing our planet from a distance brought Steve both awe at its beauty and concern for its environmental fragility. He saw an island in a vast ocean. He will inspire us to be good to nature – and to each other. The presentation will help you:

  • Learn how to overcome obstacles at any point in your life
  • Understand what it is like to ride a rocket and to live in the magic of zero gravity
  • Laugh – life as an astronaut is humorous at times
  • Appreciate how glorious Earth looks from space and the need to protect it
  • Understand how seeing the Earth from space changes one’s view on peace, tolerance, and the earth as a global community




Global VP Software Sales Advocacy, IBM

His very impactful keynote speech for our sales conference provided memorable insights on how to improve business performance and how to live a meaningful daily life. He shared management techniques and lessons learned from his successful missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope and build the International Space Station. Steve has the rare ability to make his remarks very personal even in a very large setting.


VP Global Customer Operations, LinkedIn

Our folks were mesmerized by his stories. Hearing Steve's experiences and his insights from his unique vantage point was very motivational! I appreciated his energy, humility, his deep perspective on life and on his experiences. Steve shares a message of hope, born of his experiences as a true explorer. 


Vice President, IBM

The messages that you shared and the way you were able to tie it to IBM really hit home with our people and to me. The feedback I received was exceptional.


Founder & CEO, Positive Coaching Alliance

Steve’s excellent speaking skills and his unique background as an elite athlete, astronaut, Stanford MBA, and business thinker made him the perfect choice. His inspirational story of fulfilling a lifelong dream despite many hurdles was a very effective starting point. He gave participants practical ideas on how to run an organization effectively (based on NASA’s approach) and provided easy to remember advice and life lessons for attendees.



Performance Marketing Event Strategist, IBM

Steve is an inspirational speaker who...really resonate(s) with many of IBM's target audiences. In fact, he was our highest rated speaker at Momentum 2017, with almost a perfect score in both Las Vegas and London.


Founder, Stone Arch Capital

Great best practices (from the ultimate exploration organization) that we can apply to our business!



Performance Marketing Event Strategist

What I appreciated most about Steve was his heart of service to our team. He didn't just come to speak, he came to connect and engage with people on an individual basis. He generously gave of his time to meet and greet everyone he could. He went above and beyond for the entire time we had him.



Program Executive Digital Business Group, IBM

I knew he had the amazing content (resilient life journey, flying rockets, repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, etc) but his effective application of his experiences and insights to our business priorities is what set Steve apart. He was given a vigorous standing ovation at the end of his speech and feedback forms to me had him off the charts, his post event satisfaction scores were the highest of any speaker over the last five years. 



CEO, European Council of Independent Schools

An inspiring and captivating presentation in Lisbon to our 1500 educators coming from 7 countries.   Your keynote was extremely well received by our delegates. 



Director, Acterra / Action for a Healthy Planet

Our audience was captivated by Steve’s stories and experiences, from achieving his lifelong dream despite setbacks to seeing the glory of Earth. He gave each audience member a reason to pursue their dreams with vigor!  He offered a unique perspective of Earth: its beauty, fragility, and the need for environmental stewardship. His eloquent description of Earth as an island in a vast ocean and the need therefore to protect it was deeply thought provoking...Steve inspired audience action that will help make our world a better place.


Communities Associate Director, Stanford University

Steve did everything he could to ensure the success of this event! Before the event, he was outside welcoming guests.  The Museum audio visual tech, who has worked with many speakers (including astronauts) at the Science Center, said that Steve was far and away the best speaker he had ever heard there!
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