Donavan Moss first developed an infatuation with space as a child, looking up at the stars through a telescope in his yard.
In high school, sci-fi movies and the writings of Neil deGrasse Tyson rekindled the interest. And this week, Moss – a Gainesville native and graduate of Gainesville High School – took that passion one step further with his acceptance this week as one of the first Air Force officers to be commissioned into the Space Force.
“As nerdy as it sounds, it’s the final frontier,” said Moss, a first lieutenant in the Air Force who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2018. “It’s the last unexplored domain that people can go to, besides another dimension. I have a real love for sci-fi, and this is like the closest thing I can get to that, but it’s reality.”
Moss got the news that he had been selected for the program – one of 150 Air Force officers chosen out of close to 1,000 applicants – on Monday, Oct. 19, from his commander.
The excitement still hasn’t worn off, he said.
“I’m just looking forward to how fast-paced it will be, how new it will be,” Moss said. “We’re kind of like cowboys venturing into the wild west, but we’re space cowboys. We don’t know what it’s going to look like even five, 10, 15 years from now, but it’s exciting.”
Moss grew up in Gainesville and was an active member of the community and school system throughout his youth. On top of his interest in science, he was a member of the Red Elephant football team – winning a state championship with the group in 2012 – as well as student council.
Former Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, who was school district chief throughout Moss’s time at Gainesville High, said she was not surprised to hear he had been accepted to the Space Force.
“He is committed and responsible, and he is willing to take risks to find new ways of doing things,” she said. “He always was. He is very mature and grounded, yet he has got the natural curiosity and the courage to try new things.”
Moss was also extremely involved in the Boys and Girls Club of Lanier, where he played recreational sports throughout his elementary school days and which named him Youth of the Year in 2013 when he was a senior at Gainesville High.
Boys and Girls Club of Lanier CEO Steve Mickens said Moss developed maturity and focus earlier than most, qualities that have kept him on the path to success his entire life.
“Donavan has always been driven, motivated, a great young man,” Mickens said. “He was just very, very mature at a very young age and very focused on what he wanted to do. So this is no surprise, the success he’s been having after getting out of the Air Force Academy.”
Moss said he chose the Air Force Academy out of high school because he was looking for a unique experience, and “didn’t want to go to a regular school.” He had a cousin in the Air Force who recommended the academy to him, and Moss decided to give it a shot.
He said attending and ultimately graduating from the Air Force Academy was “probably the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life,” adding that his experience there made him overprepared for the application process for the Space Force.
Moss will officially transfer to the Space Force in February of next year. He said he will be a cyber operator who will “help support space missions,” adding that he cannot provide any further specifics because “there have been things I’ve been told I can’t say.”
He did allow that he does not have any plans to do any space exploration for now, as his career path will be keeping him on the ground.
And while Moss said he doesn’t anticipate being in space any time soon, he said he can’t wait to explore it from the ground, adding that he’s eager to see where his latest endeavor takes him.
“I’m excited, because 15 years from now when I’m a lieutenant colonel, I can say I was part of the birth of the Space Force,” Moss said. “What it will be 15 years from now is what I make it. It’s going to be a forever change.”