I am very well aware that Stack Exchange discourages personal and opinion-based questions that will likely be useful to no one except the original poster. However, I know for a fact that there are many people with stories like mine, and since I was unable to find similar questions, I am hoping that whatever answers there might be to this question will be useful to others as well.

I'll give my concise background which is typical of many people from where I live:

I am 28 years old, and I come from a very poor background in Lithuania. My parents couldn't afford to get me any education beyond middle school, and neither could I. By the time I reached adulthood, I was already carrying a significant financial debt. I work 3 different jobs, 15 hours a day, just to afford my bills. I live from paycheck to paycheck, with zero savings, eating 1-2 times a day, wearing 5 years old clothes, and I have almost no free time to earn a chance to get out of this viscous cycle. Despite that, I am, at the expense of sleep, self-teaching myself in programming, electronics, math and astrophysics. My life-long dream is to work in space exploration industry, to do something significant that will help the human race take the next big step into the stars. I imagine myself as someone designing space missions, coding the next Voyager, being part of a team that works on another Mars rover - I'd take any of that if I could.

Being 28 years old already, with no money, no property, and very little time for self-improvement, I'm fearing that with each passing year, this dream is becoming less and less real, no matter how hard I try to put my every spare minute into educating myself with knowledge and skills that would make me competitive in space industry.

As I cannot afford college education, my chances are very slim. I tried, numerous times, to move to a better country, but these plans failed, and now I'm tied by the obligation to take care of my sick, old parents; And yet, I refuse to give up.

What I do have:

  • A decent head on my shoulders;
  • Damn dogged determination to absolutely anything it takes to fulfill this dream.

What I don't have:

  • Time

  • Money

  • Ability to change my livelihood

  • Knowledge of what steps to take to "reach the stars", so to speak

Again, I apologize if this question looks too personal to be asked on Stack Exchange, but I assure you that there are thousands of people in my exact situation, stuck in complete poverty, and even though they dreams might differ, they seek the same solution as I do. I am sure that if anyone would be willing to answer this specific question, it would be a great example to those in a comparable situation.

Thank you for your understanding, and I hope that someone can provide a constructive insight on how to make this impossible possible.

  • Sure, no problem. Good luck :) – Sandra K Apr 24 '18 at 17:53
  • you should try to take a low level job that is somehow related to engineering. That will be the first step – atxgis Apr 25 '18 at 21:27

There is no set path

If you were to encounter 10 people who had already accomplished your goal, and you asked them this question, you would get back 10 different answers. There is no one path or best right answer to direct you to the goal you seek.

Elon Musk would tell you to start a small start-up and build your wealth until you can start your own Space company.

Rocket scientist Olympia LePoint would tell you that for her story education was the best path out of poverty.

Or astronaut Michael Fossum might recommend that you join the Air Force, as that allowed him to escape poverty and eventually walk in space.

In short there is no one answer that will get you there, but others have proven that it is possible. That determination CAN pay off. But for every success story that we see, how many other stories are left untold and dreams left unrealized?

EDIT: In the comments you expressed some misgivings about my answer, and an overall perspective that educational opportunities are not available to you in Lithuania. As I mentioned in my conclusion, not everybody in life realizes their dreams, but it IS possible. Maybe emigration is what is required in your case, or maybe financial aid will be the answer for you (I found this resource on government scholarships in Lithuania.)

No one here will be able to tell you the answer for you and your life. Everyone's path is different.

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  • I'm well aware of these inspiring figures. However, Elon Musk already had some wealth (from his parents) to start, even if small. LePoint had the opportunity to get that education. Micheal Fossum was lucky enough to live in a country where military service opens new doors. I have none of these options. This is not the land of opportunities where we live. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 18:06
  • @JR You should put a country tag in your question. Where do you live? – Lumberjack Apr 24 '18 at 18:09
  • It's Lithuania, one of the Eastern Europe countries. Appears to be civilized at first, but people really, really struggle here. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 18:17

I came from poor background and a third world country, into a position that was a "dream" for me. So I will try and answer your question in a generic way and not just for Space Exploration Industry.

Excuse me for mentioning the following, but the only difference was that I did not have to take care of my parents and that helped me save money to afford education. This does not mean to go and blame your parents. You will realize, if you do not already, that they did the best they could do.

What I would do now:

- Reduce bills and save money.

Try to get rid of as much expenses as possible: Live with your parents if you don't. Sacrifice and lose hobbies, decrease hanging outs with friends, stop eating outside and pay your mom to cook for you.

- Get your not-working family members something to do

If you can, find a side job for your father, sell something anything. For your mother, build the stuff that your father sells. Prepare them to be financially dependable and teach them the (online maybe) selling process.

- Work voluntarily in your favorite industry

Now that(if) you were able to save some money, you can get rid of some work shifts (maybe work 2 jobs instead of 3). Find a place that is related to your dream industry, tell your story and apply for voluntarily work. Get involved in the industry and make connections.

- Attend related education

Ask and find related classes and/or courses, attend them, pass them and start building your network and resume.

- Repeat the above until it happens

You never know when is it going to happen, but with each step above you did to get closer to your dream, you would have met new people. At some point, someone will notice it and if I was to see or read your story, and evaluate your hard work through your resume, and (in your case) I am in the space exploration industry, HECK yeah I will give you the chance.

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  • Thank you for your answer, but I'm not sure if you understand how ridiculous "save money" sounds in my case. I eat 1-2 times a day, just potatoes and rice. I ate out just once in my life when I was 12. I have no hobbies, because I work from dusk until dawn. I don't "hang out with friends", as I can't afford the time for that. I work 3 jobs just for the basic survival. In winter, I sleep in piles of sheets, because temperature is below 0°C in my shared flat - just to save on bills. There is just no realistic way for me to save any money. Trust me, if there was a way, I'd have done it by now. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 18:21
  • @JR Do you live with your parents? If not, why? If yes, are you the only family member who can work? – Sandra K Apr 24 '18 at 18:33
  • Yes, we live together in a 1-room apartment (with kitchen). Both parents are recently retired, but the pensions here are so laughable, not even close to enough for survival. So yes, I'm the only one who works. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 18:39
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    I am not an expert, but if you are interested in space, there are some good opportunities for amateur astronomers to help, including observations, finding new objects and similar. Perhaps that opens a way for you to realise part of your aspirations? – Captain Emacs Apr 24 '18 at 18:50

I don't want to minimize the other issues, but I believe your two greatest obstacles are time and access to computing resources.


You don't need a college degree to get a job in this field, but you will still need time to teach yourself. It would seem that you have the mental ability, but it will still take a while to learn enough in the different areas necessary to work in this field. If you can show that you can do the work, many(most) companies won't demand a college degree. You will also need time to develop projects to show that you have the ability, these projects can be shown instead of the degree. This leads to the second obstacle.

Computing Resources

From your posting, I am assuming that you don't have your own computer. Is there some facility nearby where you could get access to the internet? A cyber cafe or a public facility like a library where you can spend time with a computer? There are a large number of free online training programs where you could learn the material that you need. There are also free programs that could provide development resources to show off your skills. For example, Amazon's AWS has a free tier which actually provides quite a large set of resources for a single developer.

I understand that given your financial situation, computing resources may just not be an option. Unfortunately, I don't see any way to get into such a high-tech field without that access.

Good luck.

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  • Thank you very much for your inspiring answer. Time is a huge issue, but I am very much trying to find at least an hour every day for learning. As for computing resources, I do have a phone that is capable of accessing internet, and displaying most, if not all websites. I can also access library computer from time to time, but it's half an hour away from my apartment. What steps would you suggest I take to get employed in space industry as soon as possible? I hope that if I can get any kind of job there, it would help me get out of poverty, giving me more time for learning and improvement. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 19:29
  • The key to getting around the lack of a college degree is showing them that you have the ability to do the work. In this kind of field you need to show some technology you have built to demonstrate your skills. If you can build up a portfolio of software you have built, this can be more impressive to a company than a college degree. But it requires enough time on the computer to build something sufficiently complex to be impressive. – cdkMoose Apr 24 '18 at 20:02
  • Well, in a few years' time, maybe I could get enough money for a 10-15 year old computer. Programming is usually not very resource intensive. In your opinion, what should I specialize in that would look best in the portfolio for space industry? – J R Apr 24 '18 at 20:04
  • I'm probably not qualified to give specifics for the space industry. But as a manager who hires developers, I'm not sure it matters. The company I work for is very big in the world of finance, but I don't specifically look for that in a resume. If a candidate can show that they have built a complex system in any domain, then they are probably smart enough to learn a new domain. If you want something more specific for space industry, I would go to the websites of some big companies and look at the kind of engineering job openings they have on their careers page for ideas. – cdkMoose Apr 24 '18 at 20:12
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    Admittedly, you are starting out behind. But I have a feeling you are more motivated and focused than some who don't have to work as hard to get there. Good luck. – cdkMoose Apr 24 '18 at 22:10

You need time and money to educate yourself and look for opportunities in the space industries. Getting that will take effort, motivation and dedication

Lithuania is in the EU so you have free movement across the continent. Even menial jobs in France, Germany and the UK will pay better than what you seem to be getting now and leave you with time to get a formal education (something that looks good on a CV rather than potentially inappropriate self-study). I've seen Eastern European people in the UK work hard, save and start their own businesses. OK, it isn't pleasant work (often the locals don't want to do it) but it gives you a chance to earn, save and study. Head for a town or city that has a space industry and take any job going but keep looking out for anything at a local space engineering company, even if it it cleaning the toilets, anything to get you through the door. Once you are in you can look at how to work your way up

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  • That is sound advice, thank you, but as I said, I cannot leave, as I have to take care of my parents, who won't survive on their meager pensions and health problems that they have. Even if there wasn't that, I couldn't possibly afford to move, I have exactly 22 euros in my bank account, which will have to be enough to survive for 2 more weeks until next paycheck. Moving is an expensive investment, and I tried to do it before, and always failed due to lack of money... And the only way I can save up is by quitting eating altogether (I already eat just 1-2 times a day, just potatoes and rice). – J R Apr 24 '18 at 20:39
  • You may find that you can provide better for your parents if you have a better paid job in the Western EU and can send money back. You may be able to contact an employment agency in the West while you are still in Lithuania and offset your moving expenses in some way. Living on potatoes and rice doesn't sound like a viable long-term option. Your English is very good btw and your work ethic is admirable! I'm sure you'll do well if you can get that first step up – Dave Gremlin Apr 24 '18 at 21:12
  • Well, I tried getting employed abroad numerous times... But no one wants to hire some unknown, self-taught programmer with no portfolio (again, I never had the time to do any major work), who can't even afford to come for an interview... This first step is the most difficult one, and I've been trying to make it happen for the last 10 years with no success. Hundreds of people like me try the same, and fail. Not that I'm about to give up. Hell no. But it's just that there are very few options in a situation like this. Thank you very much for your compliments, though, I try my best with English. – J R Apr 24 '18 at 21:22

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