Cindy Schumacher | March 24, 2020

Cindy Schumacher | March 24, 2020

C.S. Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Wesley Harris, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discussed Multi-Use Aerospace Technologies.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) held its 2020 Science and Technology (SciTech) Forum and Exposition 6-10 January in Orlando, Florida. This year, as has become customary in even-numbered years, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) presented its 30th annual Space Flight Mechanics Meeting as part of the Forum, to foster technical interchange in the field.

The Forum’s theme, Driving Aerospace Solutions for Global Challenges, brought together experts from across the globe to share ideas on a variety of technical disciplines and explore the aerospace industry’s contributions to a sustainable future. A different topic, on how advances in the aerospace industry are contributing to a better future, was addressed each day in the plenary session, while the main theme ran throughout the forum. This year’s theme was inspired by the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Nearly 5,000 attendees and a record-breaking 1,500 students participated in SciTech 2020. Approximately 900 international attendees from 43 countries, including the United States, took part in the thought-provoking topics. More than 2,500 technical presentations spanning 50 aerospace research topics were presented along with Plenary and Forum 360 sessions, Rising Leaders in Aerospace Recognition Awards and Lectures, the Exposition Hall, the Hub, student activities, and networking experiences. Special programming events included Engineering Apollo: Flight Simulation; International Student Conference; Enabling the Future of Aviation; and a Women at SciTech Breakfast and Keynote.

A distinguished panel of participants in the Apollo Program recalled their experiences in engineering Apollo through flight simulation. Left to right: AIAA President John Langford, President and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences; panel moderator John Tylko, Chief Innovation Officer, Aurora Flight Sciences; Frank Hughes, currently President, Tietronix, formerly Chief of Space Flight Training, NASA (ret.); Col. David R. Scott, USAF (ret.), astronaut on Gemini 8, Apollo 9, and Apollo 15; and Wayne Ottinger, currently President, Aerospace Legacy Engineering and Technology Recovery Organization, formerly Lunar Landing Training Vehicle Technical Director and Base Manager, NASA (ret.).

Each year AIAA/AAS SciTech builds upon itself to become more inclusive and innovative as we stand upon the shoulders of giants to work on today’s challenges,” said Daniel Dumbacher, AIAA Executive Director. “The SciTech forum brings together students, mid-career and seasoned professionals across aerospace to unite them in finding solutions.” He added, “As the Driving Aerospace Solutions for Global Challenges theme continued throughout the week, we discovered how advances in the aerospace industry are contributing to a better future. For example, Monday was focused on sustainable aerospace; Tuesday looked at the next great thing; Wednesday was on bringing the world closer together; Thursday about engineers building the world; and Friday on multi-uses of aerospace technologies in the world.”

Jim Way, AAS Executive Director said, “We’re very pleased to once again contribute to this event bringing the spaceflight mechanics component to this diverse lineup. It’s a tremendously exciting time for the industry and events like this are critical to bring and evaluate the innovations needed to address the challenges we face as we expand our exploration of the universe.”

Featured plenary speakers included Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory; Robert D. Braun, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado, Boulder; Ellen Stofan, the John and Adrienne Mars Director at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; Lori Garver, CEO Earthrise Alliance; and Wesley Harris, C.S. Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the opening plenary, Wood explained how engineers build the world around us by solving societal problems and optimizing available resources. “Whether it’s global climate change or global computational capability, engineers are critical to the sustainability and growth of humankind,” Wood said. “Sustainability is how we stay relevant in the modern world. It is what it’s all about—how to use space for a sustainable society. We must explore how aerospace technologies are supporting a sustainable society on our home planet, whether it is space-enabled earth observation, optimizing air transportation, or cultivating innovation to solve our communities’ needs. Our Space Enabled Research Group works to increase the opportunities to design and apply space technology in support of the Sustainable Development Goals with societal leaders from around the world.”

Danielle Wood, Director of the Space-Enabled Research Group in the MIT Media Lab and Assistant Professor of Media Arts & Sciences and Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discussed how to use space to support a sustainable society.

Lori Garver, CEO Earthrise Alliance, said, “It is more than just constructing vehicles and infrastructure. It is using scientific principles to make sure humanity and the world survive. Climate change is an engineering and scientific challenge that needs to be understood and potentially solved or mitigated to ensure we can grow and thrive for millennia together.”

The 31st AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting will take place January 31-February 4, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina. More information is available at http://www.space-flight.org/docs/2021_winter/2021_winter.html.

Cindy Schumacher is a journalist from Maui, Hawaii. She currently writes the Focus Maui Nui articles in the Maui News for Maui Economic Development Board and is a contributing writer for the Lahaina News. She has written numerous articles on topics related to astronautics and space science for Space Times, and has covered several national and international conferences.