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Past, future of aerospace is theme of MIT celebration

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Press Contact:

Elizabeth A. Thomson
Phone: 617-258-5563
MIT Resource Development

*Editors/Reporters are invited to cover Aerospace: A Century of Accomplishment, a Time of Renewal, a Future of Opportunity. The event is free for reporters; please preregister at the web site listed at the end of this release or contact Ms. Thomson.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.-- Professors, industry leaders, and astronauts will address the future of aerospace--including the human exploration of space--as well as key aerospace accomplishments over the past century at a two-day celebration of the field at MIT September 13 and 14.

The event will also include a session on a new approach toward teaching aeronautics and astronautics that MIT's department of the same name is currently instituting. Key to that approach is the new Learning Laboratory for Complex Systems, which will be officially launched during the celebration. Below are descriptions of key talks at the celebration.


Space is beginning to be filled with robotic explorers carrying human intelligence and curiosity to the universe in ways never before possible. Professor Brian C. Williams will share his excitement about this field and its future, including the possible makeup of the first intelligences most likely to go beyond Mars.

How do we physically travel past Mars? Professor Jack L. Kerrebrock will address propulsion systems to this end, which he believes will be powered by nuclear fission.

The last big step in space left a footprint on the moon. Many hope that the next step will be on the red soil of Mars, but before that happens a number of serious obstacles to human interplanetary flight must be overcome. Professor Laurence R. Young, director of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, will examine threats to human health created by long space flights, and their relationship to health problems here on Earth.

NASA astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman believes that molecular biology will play an increasingly important role in space exploration. For example, will humans on Mars genetically engineer organisms that can grow in the Martian environment? Can and should we try to propagate life throughout the solar system? And given the potential for non-human intelligence in computers, he says, the eventual physical expansion of consciousness into the solar system may not be done by human beings as we recognize them today.


An MIT project to develop an engine-on-a-chip with significant advantages over its full-sized brethren is the focus of Professor Alan H. Epstein's talk. Fabricated in large numbers in parallel, these thumbnail-sized engines could be used in applications ranging from satellites to very small launch vehicles.

The introduction of digital components, particularly software, is creating a quiet revolution in aerospace engineering. Professor Nancy Leveson will address how and why this happening, and some of the challenges--human and technical--that must be addressed.


From the gas turbine engine and the swept wing to the shuttle, three pioneers who led the development of engine, aircraft, and spacecraft will speak to the magnificent accomplishments of the past century.

They are Bernard E. Koff of Pratt and Whitney, Holden W. Withington of Boeing, and former astronaut and NASA administrator William B. Lenoir.



When: Sessions from 3:30-7:30pm Wednesday, September 13, and 8:30am to 4:45pm Thursday, September 14.

Where: MIT Buildings 33, 34-101, and E15-070.

Full Schedule/Registration: or contact Ms. Thomson.

Directions: or contact Ms. Thomson.

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