The next five years in aeronautical engineering are going to perhaps be the most important for engineers in the United States. NASA has just five years to get their moon missions on the go.
NASA managed a world-first when in 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. They are now aiming to not only take man to the moon once more but to have the first woman walk on the moon too.
The moon missions are going to be a collaborative effort between public and private players. For engineers in the private sector, the door to lucrative engineering jobs has swung open to those willing to put in the hard yards in what has been considered a renewed space race.
The next class of engineers who are to head to the space station soon, to the moon in the next four years, and to Mars in the near future, have been chosen. The last time astronauts made it to the moon was in 1972 during NASA’s Apollo 17 mission.
The new crop of astronauts at NASA have some decorated engineering graduates in their rank. In fact, most of the astronauts with backgrounds in engineering are master’s graduates. Some of the astronauts that will be undergoing basic training to become astronauts include:
- Kayla Barron, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge.
- Matthew Dominick, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
- Raja Chari, a U.S. Air Force colonel, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He also earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A full list of the graduates are available on NASA’s website.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the graduation ceremony, “These individuals represent the best of America, and what an incredible time for them to join our astronaut corps. 2020 will mark the return of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and will be an important year of progress for our Artemis program and missions to the moon and beyond.”
Privatized astronauts to blast off too
This year, NASA will be opening its doors for two short private astronaut missions to the International Space Station. They expect to conduct two private missions each year, starting this year.
In Washington State, another private space company and NASA collaborator, Blue Origin, opened its brand new headquarters. Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Gumman and Draper are behind the lunar lander for the Artemis program which the cohort of graduates will be working under at NASA.
Blue Origin was founded by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos in 2000. According to Space.com, the main building at the new headquarters is named the O’Neill Building after Gerard O’Neill, who is credited with some of the most novel studies on human settlements in space.
At the ribbon-cutting event for the new HQ, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said, “We grew by a third last year, and we’re going to continue to grow at a rapid pace. For those of you that are Washington State residents, what is exciting is we’re going to be doing all this work from a headquarters based here in Kent. It’s a remarkable statement to say that we’re going to fly humans to space, we’re going to build and design large engines and a large orbital rocket, and we’re going to go back to the moon - all through work centered here.”
The aerospace engineering sector is notoriously cross-disciplinary and shaping up to be one of the more exciting industries to keep an eye on in 2020. The United States is banking on the next moon missions to thrill the world once more and inspire the next generation of engineers, as the first moon missions in 1969 did.
Howell, Elizabeth. “Blue Origin Opens New Headquarters As It Aims For The Moon, Astronaut Flights.” Space.com, Space, 8 Jan. 2020, www.space.com/blue-origin-opens-new-headquarters-research-development.html.
Northon, Karen. “NASA's Astronaut Candidates to Graduate with Eye on Artemis Missions.” NASA, NASA, 18 Dec. 2019, www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-astronaut-candidates-to-graduate-with-eye-on-artemis-missions.