Aerospace Engineering celebrates 100th year

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By Maya Shankar, For the Daily
Published September 21, 2014

The University’s aerospace engineering department might not always get the most attention on campus, but it was hard to miss them this weekend when 15 aircraft dazzled fans at Michigan Stadium prior to the Wolverines’ matchup against Utah.

The department celebrated its 100th anniversary with a three-day Centennial Celebration held Sept. 18-20,which drew academics, students and visitors from all over the country.

The events celebrated the department’s diverse accomplishments over the past 100 years. During this time, alumni from the department have gone on to become pilots, astronauts and researchers — contributing to advancements in many fields of aerospace research and development.

The events also discussed the future of the industry. The series included panels on the future of aerospace academics, the future of aircrafts and the future of space travel, among others.

During the “Panel on the Future of Space Exploration and Use” Friday, speakers from select aerospace engineering companies and organizations — Blue Origin, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, SpaceX and Orbitals Science Corporation — spoke about the future of commercial space travel.

Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin, which discussed the company’s goal to increase the number of people that can fly to space while simultaneously lowering the cost of commercial spaceflight and improving safety.

Lauri Hansen addressed the emphasis on human spaceflight and their latest project, the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which aims to artificially redirect an asteroid into the moon’s orbit in order to study its properties. The mission gained attention in the aerospace community, as they are hoping it will be a stepping-stone to more involved human missions into deep space.

The panels not only provided information on the work being done in the industry currently, but they also stressed the importance of student involvement and the role of our generation in aerospace.

Frank DeMauro, vice president at Orbital Sciences Corporation, which focuses on development and launch of satellites and rockets, spoke about giving commercial access to space and their new spacecraft, Cygnus, which could provide new opportunities for travel into deep space.

“I’m very excited about the caliber of students that come from our colleges,” DeMauro said when asked about the education students are receiving at universities.

Students attending the panel were able to see how all the different parts of the industry, from engineering to marketing, worked together to achieve a common goal.

Engineering senior Jose Gomez, after attending the panel on space travel, said he realized “The common consensus (among the panelists) is that it is the students today that are going to really make the difference and really push our species beyond Earth-orbit and into space.

“I feel a little bit more empowered now,” he said.