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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Students learn about aerospace careers

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Innovations in the aerospace industry will continue to impact life in the future, according to aerospace engineer Erisa Hines, one of the speakers at the Key Issues for Today's Teens program at Monett High School. The event, sponsored by the Monett Kiwanis Club, brought presenters from five areas of expertise to offer insights on contemporary problems.

A 1998 Wheaton High School graduate, Hines earned a degree in mechanical engineering with an aerospace concentration from the University of Miami. She subsequently earned a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She now works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, Calif., as a systems engineer with the Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems and Advanced Technologies Group.

JPL was founded in 1936 as a graduate student project. From 1946 until 1958 the company worked with Werner Von Braun and German scientists to create the US missile program. The research and development center, operated by the California Institute of Technology, is federally funded. There are about 5,000 employees with a $1.6 billion business base.

Students had heard of the Phoenix, Odyssey and Voyagers 1 and 2 projects that JPL has done. Among the specific projects mentioned were:

*Explorer 1: the first successful US satellite to orbit earth;
*Ranger 7: the first US spacecraft to reach the moon;
*Mariner 2: the world's first successful fly-by of another planet;
*Mariner 4: the first time close-up images of another planet;
*Mariner 9: the first spacecraft to orbit another planet;
*Mariner 10: the first spacecraft to use the force of gravity around one planet to reach another planet;
*The Twin Voyagers: the first grand tour of the outer planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
*Galileo: the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter;
*Cassini: the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn.
The work Hines does varies depending on her targeted destination. A landing on the moon, for example, is different from landing on earth and on Mars. Winged vehicles work well on earth, but on the moon, propulsions systems are required due to the lack of an atmosphere.

For a Mars landing, a spacecraft approaches at about 12,500 miles per hour. A heat shield and a parachute are used to slow it down to about 250 miles per hour. Radar is used to guide the spacecraft to the desired landing place. The rover using a propulsion system is used to make the final landing. The process takes about six minutes, requiring precise planning for each step.

Hines's current project is getting the rover to go back to the moon in about 10 years. She makes sure various systems work together to accomplish a task.

Hines said several scientific benefits would come from returning the rover to the moon,, such as testing survival techniques, collecting surface samples and the chance to see other celestial objects outside of earth's atmosphere. Exploration benefits include placing instruments and seeking resources like frozen water that could help human survival.

The moon offers preparation opportunities for a trip to Mars. Hines said it takes nine months to get to Mars, compared to four days to reach the moon. As a training ground for practicing, the moon provides a close place to train for surviving in a non-habitable environment.

Hines showed and explained pictures and videos of projects undertaken by JPL. Expertise needed to work in the aerospace industry included mechanical, aerospace, electrical and computer engineers, science and software material specialists, physicists, geologists and biologists, business and finance, human resources, firefighters, photographers, medical staff, security guards, administration personnel and facility maintenance experts.

Students were encouraged to think about what they would like to do, apply themselves and consider JPL as a career employer option.

One student inquired about the chance of Hines becoming an astronaut. Hines replied people who design and build the spacecraft are afraid to ride in one of them, which brought number of chuckles.

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