“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962
I suspect this quote resonates with many students and staff in the Department of Engineering who enjoy tackling complex problems. Space exploration is one of the most complex problems there is. In this post I'd like to profile some connections our Department and its students have to aeronautics and astronautics.
Firstly I'd like to extend my congratulations to Professor Karen Willcox who is a Professor in of Aeronautics/Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Karen holds a BE in Engineering Science (and graduated from the degree the same year I did). In this year's Queen's Birthday Honours I was thrilled to see Karen awarded an MBE recognizing not only her contributions within Engineeering, but also in Education. She was part of the "Task Force on the Future of MIT Education" which produced a report which tackled issues including the need for graduates to have strong communication and collaboration skills, development of a flexible curriculum, online learning, and future financial models for the University,
The Faculty also recently hosted Dr Pete Worden, retired Director of NASA's Ames Research Center. He gave a public lecture during his visit and visited the Auckland Space Systems program. Students in the space systems program (incuding students from Engineering Science) have been competing in a contest to "identify a societal need, and design a solution using a CubeSat, a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm, 1kg cube". Not an easy mission!
My own research work focuses on computational earth science. So I was excited to hear the winning Space Systems team were addressing a geologically driven problem. They aimed to detect disturbances in the ionosphere that may be related to earthquake processes. In 2010 the Demeter satellite found disruptions in the ionosphere during the Mount Merapi eruption. I firmly believe that exploring space can help life here on earth. I'll also be excited to see New Zealand's role in space grow as Rocket Labs moves closer to a successful launch from Mahia.
So while Engineering Science may not be rocket science, it's definitely a discipline which is equipping people to with skills and knowledge to explore space!