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SME Speaks: Space Travel Beyond the Moon


SME members have experienced many walks of life and many cultures. Society's need for their manufacturing expertise has sent them to the most remote locations, to the highest buildings, and into the deepest oceans. The SME member who's "speaking out" this month has traveled further than anyone we've talked with before—to the moon.

Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin planted his feet in history on July 20, 1969, when he served as the pilot of the Apollo 11 lunar module and became the second man to walk on the moon. Today, he travels the globe promoting his vision for a retooled space program that will put humans on Mars by the year 2020, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in aerospace, technology, and engineering. Aldrin recently spoke with us, sharing his perspective as an aerospace engineer, author, and pilot.

SME Speaks: What do you see as the next frontier for space travel, and what engineering challenges does that present?

Aldrin: We're interested now in human transportation in space, in taking nonprofessional, noncareer people into orbit for several days. The public is pretty excited about this concept. Helping to manufacture the implements, systems, and materials needed to make this possible is even more exciting to the engineers involved.

As we work on ways to make that happen, engineers have to take things that other people have made and make them better. That's been the focus of most of my post-Apollo work. Most of our next space frontier does not require new products, but new ways of thinking about existing technologies and products, and new applications. We're making use of boosters and the other parts of spacecraft that make them go high, but with very low pressure, and figuring out how to take them into space. Another part of our challenge is in applying engineering technologies from other industries.

SME Speaks: What do you feel are the biggest challenges for the United States in competing globally?

Aldrin: Consider automotive hybrid technology. The Japanese engineers started that, and now we're playing catch up. Why is that? It's because our culture doesn't take out-of-the-box thinking and turn it into products right away. In the automotive business, whatever worked last year, we often want to do the same thing this year but faster or cheaper. That's efficient, but it's not really innovative. And the Japanese, and others, get ahead of us.

One of the things that has affected us, and other nations, is the secrecy that comes with national defense. So much knowledge is restricted: we don't want to share our knowledge with other countries, particularly if it relates to defense systems, so we restrict its application. A lot of times that prevents technological advances in one industry from being used in other industries or in commercial efforts like space travel.

SME Speaks: What do you think the United States needs to do to interest more young people in careers in math, science, engineering, and technology?

Aldrin: I come from a "serve-my-country" upbringing. My father was involved in aviation during its pioneering years. It wasn't financially rewarding, but that didn't seem to matter as much. We were committed to our government and our military.

Things have definitely changed.
There are more and more distractions for young people. Of all the things that attract youth today, engineering is not high on the list, especially in competition with the appeal of a career as a lawyer, investment banker, or music celebrity.

Getting people to pursue these careers is one of our nation's most critical challenges, and there's no easy solution. In order to play up the manufacturing engineering profession to be attractive to young people, we have to start with the basics. We need role models. That's what I try to be for young people whenever I have a chance to meet with them.


See Buzz in LA

On March 27, Buzz Aldrin will share his story with hundreds of college students at The Total Manufacturing Experience (TME) in Los Angeles. Aldrin will serve as special guest speaker and presenter of the awards for the Manufacturing Challenge, a creative competition where students' engineered products will be judged and recognized by manufacturing experts. Aldrin will also join SME members and event exhibitors for the TME kick-off reception, The Sky's the Limit, immediately following the Challenge.


SME Awards for 2006

SME is pleased to announce the following recipients of its 2006 Honorary Membership and International Honor Awards, which recognize outstanding accomplishments and dedication to the manufacturing community. These individuals exemplify the very best in manufacturing today, and we honor them for their contributions to this profession.

Ronald D. Sugar, PhD, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman Corp. is recognized as the 2006 SME Honorary Member for his professional eminence among manufacturing engineers.

Taylan Altan, professor and director, ERC for Net Shape Manufacturing, The Ohio State University, receives the SME Frederick W. Taylor Research Medal for his published research leading to a better understanding of materials, facilities, principles, operations, and their application to improve manufacturing processes.

Carolyn Corvi, vice president-general manager, Airplane Production, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, The Boeing Co., is recognized with the Eli Whitney Productivity Award for her distinguished accomplishments in improving capability within the broad concept of orderly production.

Richard E. Dauch, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and co-founder of American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM), receives the Donald C. Burnham Manufacturing Management Award. The award recognizes Dauch's exceptional success in the integration of the infrastructure and processes of manufacturing through his innovative use of human, technical, and financial resources in founding and leading AAM.

Jack L. Ferrell, active SME member and retired vice president of Manufacturing & Systems—Space & Defense Sector, TRW Inc., receives the Joseph A. Siegel Service Award for his significant and unique contributions to the Society.

Robert W. Hall, professor emeritus, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, is recognized with the SME Gold Medal for his outstanding service to the manufacturing engineering profession in technical communications through published literature, technical writings, or lectures.

Wallace J. Hopp, Breed University Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, receives the SME Education Award. The award recognizes him as the educator most respected for development of manufacturing-related curricula, fostering sound training methods, or inspiring students to enter the profession of manufacturing.

Rajan Suri, professor and director, Center for Quick Response Manufacturing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is being recognized with the SME Albert M. Sargent Progress Award for his significant accomplishments in the field of manufacturing processes, methods, or systems.

SME congratulates its award winners. Watch SME Speaks for more details on their accomplishments.

SME's 2006 Honorary Member and International Honor Award winners will be recognized at the International Awards Gala to be held in Los Angeles on March 28, during The Total Manufacturing Experience. Click here for more details on SME's awards programs.


This article was first published in the February 2006 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 2/1/2006

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