Many years have passed since the United States sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. Since then, efforts to fund the space program have faltered because of the costs, fiscal priorities and the expanding role of the private sector in space exploration. In spite of this, many dedicated engineers and scientist have achieved considerable success with deep space telescopes and with unmanned probes, sent to gather information from other planets, stars and asteroids. These successes have ignited interest in the possibility of sending manned missions to Mars.
In an opinion editorial published Tuesday, 11 October 2016 on CNN, President Obama set a goal to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, and to have them return to Earth safely, "with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time." He continued by saying, “The space race we won not only contributed immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge.”
This Mars venture will require cooperation between government and private innovators. Private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station within the next two years. Additionally, as stated in his editorial, “Government is working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space." Seven companies have received awards to develop habitation systems. Some of America’s leading scientists and engineers met in Pittsburgh to discuss opportunities and plans.
During his term, President Obama has implemented important milestones in STEM education. Today for the first time, more than 100,000 engineers are graduating from American schools and new STEM teachers are being trained with the goal of training 100,000 new STEM teachers in a decade.
There is also another important aspect. As discussed in the perspective article by John Logsdon “John F. Kennedy’s Space Legacy and Its Lessons for Today” [27(3), Spring 2011, www.issues.org], space exploration can have a substantial beneficial international component. In a 20 September 1963 speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, President Kennedy stated quite unexpectedly: “Why should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?” Going on he suggested that “the United States and the Soviet Union might explore the possibility of a joint expedition.” Indeed we have seen international cooperation on space exploration on many initiatives, particularly the International Space Station.
Benefits of space exploration are diverse and benefit all mankind, enhancing the technology and engineering professions, while at the same time benefiting society through spin-off advances in energy, medicine, agriculture, artificial intelligence, our environment and ourselves.
- Engineering News Record [277(8):43-63, September 2016, www.enr.com] reports on the peer-selected winners of the “Global Best Project Awards-2016.” These projects were judged to be the most outstanding examples of the risks, rewards, and hurdles overcome of designing and building internationally. The project winning top honors as global project of the year was the Thames Water Lee Tunnel in the best water/wastewater category. This tunnel was built by an international team with the purpose of improving water quality in the London England Borough of Newham and employed innovative management and construction techniques. The 6.9 kilometer long, 7.2 meter diameter tunnel captures overflow storm water mixed with sewage that was previously discharged untreated into the Thames River. Once storm flows drop the water stored in the tunnel is sent for treatment. Approximately 35 million metric tons of overflow can be diverted and treated. Twenty-two other international projects winners in each of their categories are profiled.
- A listing of young stars all under 40 years of age that are leading us to the future are profiled in Leigh Gallagher’s FORTUNE’s “All-New 40 Under 40.” [FORTUNE, 174(5):53-60, October 2016, www.fortune.com] article. These outstanding individuals are seen to be the creative disrupters, innovators and realistic visionary dreamers of the future. Profiles of their diverse activities and companies that many of them lead are provided. As you read their stories, you will become increasingly optimistic that the future is in good hands.
- It is no secret that travel in today’s world is necessary but stressful in many ways. Consumer Reports in its cover story article “Secrets to Stress-Free Flying.” [81(10): 18-31, October 2016, www.consumerreports.org] provides strategies to fly saner, safer, and cheaper. Interesting historical data starting in 1914 on the changing airline industry and why the industry has changed is included. For those of us in our senior years; the passenger experience for today’s airline’s customer is much different than that which we “enjoyed” in our younger years. Seat size, safety, fares, passenger conflict, connections, airline rankings and booking flights are but a few of the topics covered in this consumer report. An interesting inset describes a few of the initiatives of consumer advocacy groups on airline safety and customer-service initiatives.
- Medical identity theft is dramatically on the rise. This occurs when someone steals your personal data to illegally obtain prescription drugs, doctor care or surgery. Should this occur it can be personally devastating endangering your medical treatment and finances. In “Body Snatchers.” [Consumer Reports, 81(10): 42-49, October 2016, www.consumerreports.org]. Michelle Andrews provides information about who is most at risk, how to lower your risk, spotting the warning signs, how to protect yourself, and what to do should you become a victim. Continuing on with the topic of your privacy the November issue of Consumer Reports provides the article “66 Ways to Protect Your Privacy, Right Now” [pp. 24-37].
- It is estimated that by 2050 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas and rail will be the transportation system of choice. Additionally, the rise of the Internet of Things combined with smart cities will increase our reliance on the rail system, and on how modern railways and subways are being constructed. Carlos Gonzalez discusses the future of cities and surface and underground rail transportation in “All Aboard! The Future of Railroads, Subways, and Smart Cities” [Machine Design, 88(8):32-38, August 2016, www.machinedesign.com]. Numerous case studies are presented. A related article “Focus Future” by William Vantuono in the September 2016 issue of Railway Age [pp. 26-33, www.railwayage.com] describes how innovative engineering, safety, and environmental programs are driving change at Union Pacific.
- A profile of Mark Zuckerberg is the cover story of the September-October 2016 issue of Popular Science [288(5):40-46, 2016, www.popsci.com]. Dave Gershgorn describes how Mark Zuckerberg built an empire of 1.71 billion followers in “The Most Social Man on the Planet” and goes on to discuss the unbreakable genius of the creator of Facebook. He is described as an individual who is totally determined and is willing to fail and try again until he achieves success with an innovative idea. Many of this futuristic thinkers ideas to make a better world are presented by the author as are his global philanthropic activities with his wife. He believes that advances in science enabled through artificial intelligence and machine learning will soon provide the opportunities to cure many fatal diseases.
- Kris Frieswick profiles “The Most Confident Man on Earth” [Inc. 102-112, October 2016, www.inc.com]. Tony Robbins is seen as an individual who has mastered the art of persuasion and has built an empire by transforming clients into business partners. As stated in the article “Tony realizes that the only thing that prevents you from focusing on what you want is fear.” Central to his career is his life-coaching empire, Robbins Research International [www.tonyrobbins.com] including books, audio programs and seminars. He believes that anyone can learn to be confident and achieve success. Insets included with the article discuss topics including how he integrates his life into his work, profiles of his vast network of 31 diverse businesses, and how he hires employees.
- Karl Deisseroth describes a new experimental approach using both chemistry and biology that provides scientists with a technology to visually examine the deepest portions of the intact brain in “A Look Inside the Brain” [Scientific American, 315(4):30-37, October 2016, www.scientificamerican.com]. This new technique involves removing lipids and replacing them with a substance that allows the investigator to see past the barriers that currently block an internal view of this complex organ. These hydrogel embedding methods allow researchers to examine the wiring of specific neural circuits and is described in a pictorial flowchart on page 36. This innovative technique is predicted to give new insights into the biology of the brain and its disorders. The method is also now being applied to diverse organs and tissues throughout the entire body.
- The focus of the October, 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review [www.hbr.org] is on building a workforce for the future. Four articles examine the topic. 1).”Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” Leadership training will only be effective when problems with organizational design and managerial processes are fixed. 2). “The Performance Management Revolution.” Frequent, development-focused conversations between managers and subordinates is a better way to improve performance. 3). “AT&T’s Talent Overhaul.” This communications giant is reinventing itself by upgrading the skills of hundreds of thousands of employees 4). “Globalization, Robots, and the Future of Work.” Competitive advantage will occur in with a company’s ability to rapidly shift the location of work according to the availability of skills. Excellent information for your success in our changing world.
Terrance Malkinson is a communications specialist, business analyst and futurist. He is an IEEE Senior Life Member and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Future Society. He is currently an international correspondent for IEEE-USA InSight, an associate editor for IEEE Canadian Review, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the IEEE Institute. Additionally, he leads a number of applied research projects. The author is grateful to the staff and resources of the Reg Erhardt library at SAIT Polytechnic and the Haskayne Business Library of the University of Calgary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org