Ask Control Engineering
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control and embedded systems. Control Engineering answers questions from readers of Control Engineering's print and online magazines, newsletters and other publications. To comment on any blog posting, click on the post's highlighted question and scroll to the "Post a Comment" box at the bottom. Submit questions as comments to any existing post.
Benefits the Space Shuttle Era
July 08, 2011
Dear Control Engineering: I see that Atlantis has taken off this morning on what is being billed as the final space shuttle mission. What are some of the side benefits that have come out of the space program over the years?
Aside from things like Tang, Space Food Sticks, and other astronaut food, there are many more earthly benefits that have come out of the space program. While I suspect nobody would be able to identify and count them all, NASA did try to offer a few in an article published in 2008. One point of the article is that NASA’s work helped advance research methods in addition to specific products and processes:
“As famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who has collaborated with NASA on one of its most beneficial inventions, an artificial heart pump, has said, ‘NASA is engaged in very active research. It has as its goal to explore space. But to do so, you’ve got to do all kinds of research – biological research, physical research and so on. So it’s really a very, very intensive research organization. And anytime you have any type of intensive research organization or activity going on, new knowledge is going to flow from it.’”
One Control Engineering article from earlier this year discussed a specific industrial control solution that helped maintain the shuttle program, but didn’t result directly from space-related research. There are probably countless developments similar to that.
Leave a comment below. Cannot see the comment area below? Click on the following and scroll down: Benefits of the Space Shuttle Era. (Note that we have to approve the comments to limit spam; we'll get to it soon. Thanks.)
--Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com
Thursday, 21-07-11 09:34
NASA's value to inspire future engineers: priceless
I was 9 or 10, in fourth grade, when my "Weekly Reader" told me about a NASA plan for a reusable spacecraft. With the shuttle program retired today after 30 years, NASA has no funding for putting humans in low earth orbit (left to the Russians and to the private sector). Nor does NASA have funding for continuing the work on its already begun deep space exploration program. While there are many direct technological benefits to putting humans in space -- and practical reasons to use robotic space exploration -- inspiring new engineering talent may be NASA's largest contribution.
What do you think?
Here's an impossible ROI calculation that I think demonstrates why we need NASA: Let's add up the engineering contributions of every person inspired by NASA to become an engineer. Put the other way: What won't be engineered in the future because young people today, uninspired by NASA's lack of funding, will choose another career? Leave a comment below.
If you believe a greater percentage of your tax dollars should go toward NASA (as part of a balanced budget and deficit reduction), let your government know at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.
-Engineering inspiration: NASA’s Linenger challenges us to reach deeper http://bit.ly/lHtNPT
- A few prior comments on engineering inspiration are in this Control
Engineering posting: http://bit.ly/mZBNKX
- Need inspiration? Look at this NASA photo from the International Space Station of the last Space Shuttle re-entry, this morning. Wow.
- Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering