Sucess of NASA’s Curiosity Landing Could Inspire a New Generation of Aerospace Engineers

With the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars earlier today, a new generation of young people could be inspired to become aerospace (or mechanical, electrical, etc.) engineers. The immensely complicated mission culminated in a risky, but spectacular soft landing on the surface of mars. Even with the London 2012 Olympics capturing much of the media’s attention, Curiosity viewing parties around the world tuned into live feeds from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, to watch the final tense minutes of Curiosity’s touchdown on the Red Planet. With NASA’s manned space program in a multi-year lull after the retirement of the Space Shuttle, successful missions such as Curiosity should be promoted by NASA as much as possible to keep young people interested in pursing math, science and engineering careers. (NASA does seems to be doing a pretty good job of using social media and the internet to dispense valuable information on their unmanned science missions.) Actually, young people today may be able to relate to robotic missions such as Curiosity more than manned missions. This is due to the fact that young people can build and operate their own inexpensive robots in school clubs and competitions, such as Dean Kamen’s national robotic competition. The rapid development of small, unmanned air vehicles (UAV) in the last few years is another area of robotics that could attract young people to aerospace engineering careers. Inexpensive, electrically-powered quadcopters kits are another great way for a young person to learn how science, math and engineering merge to create a flying vehicle. Hopefully NASA can keep  interest in the Curiosity mission at a high level for a long time. This shouldn’t be hard to do, especially when the spectacular high-resolution color pictures of the Martian surface begin to be transmitted back to Earth from Curiosity over the next few weeks.

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