The Sky’s the Limit (not)
You probably think aerospace engineers design, test, and develop the systems that control things like fighter planes and commercial airliners or rockets, drones, and satellites that blast into outer space. That’s what most aerospace engineers do.
But some aerospace engineers are concerned with other kinds of objects that move through air and water. Like high-speed trains, for example, or windmill blades, or hydrofoils, which are boats that “fly” just above the surface of the water. Other aerospace engineers turn their talents to designing skyscrapers and power plants.
And guess what? Aircraft and spacecraft have a lot in common with sports equipment. All use strong, lightweight materials and need good aerodynamics, which means moving smoothly through the air. Good aerodynamics is just what a soccer ball needs to make it sail higher and farther, what skis need to zip down the slopes, and what race cars need to zoom around the track.
Interested in aerospace? Check out these videos:
Courtesy of ThinkTV
A Station in Space
What weighs more than 1 million pounds, has research labs, is a temporary home for humans and is floating around in space? The International Space Station. It’s the largest and most complex international science project in history. Since 2000, crews—including engineers—have been living at the station, doing research in medicine and science that will help everyone. Sometimes, they even take a little walk in space. Chalk one up for aerospace engineers! Try to catch a glimpse of the station some clear night.
Check out heavens-above.com for information on when it’s visible from where you live.
What a Racket
You may never have been to outer space, but you’ve probably picked up a tennis racket. Unlike the older wooden version, today’s tennis rackets are made of the same materials as space vehicles. Who’s behind it all? Aerospace engineers.
Extreme Weather Alert!
Hurricanes, tornados, floods, tsunamis, cyclones, or just your average rainy day. Aerospace engineers design satellites that orbit our planet, measuring things like cloud cover, temperature, moisture and wind speed. With the help of powerful computers, scientists use that information to predict the weather and alert us to storms.
The Race to Mars
Will humans be able to live on Mars? The government and many companies are racing to answer that question. But there are many details to be ironed out first, not the least of which are how to provide all those comforts we’re used to—air, water, sanitation, and food—and how to protect Mars-bound passengers from the radiation in space. With NASA intending to send astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s, you can bet aerospace engineers will be hard at work making a go of the mission.
Want a Job In Aerospace?
Build a Race Car
Some aerospace companies look for new employees at student race car building competitions. It’s not too far from race car to rocket because lightweight and efficient engineering are the mainstays of both. Every year college students have a chance to compete in Formula SAE to design, engineer, and build a prototype car—and see how it stands up to those of their peers. Check our their website for all the info. fsaeonline.com/
Answering the Big Questions
How did the universe begin, and what else is out there? Aerospace engineers are on it, working on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the world’s leading infrared space observatory, looking for answers to these questions over the next decade. And the Hubble Telescope has been at it since the 1990s, in low earth orbit. It recently caught a super giant black hole burping, more than once—read about it here. hubblesite.org/news