Page 16 - Engineering Penn State Magazine: Spring/Summer 2019
P. 16

 Partners for the final frontier
Engineering, Eberly College of Science, Earth and Mineral Sciences join forces to explore planetary science collaboration
by Ashley WennersHerron
External experts and faculty from Penn State’s College of Engineering, Eberly College of Science, and College of Earth and Mineral Sciences gathered on April 28–30 to assess capabilities and discuss the goals for academic and research initiatives in planetary sciences.
“We’re in the exploration and definition
stage of what Penn State can provide to support planetary science missions, as well as what we might
need to achieve such goals,” said Sven Bilén, head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs and professor of engineering design, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering. Bilén is one of the faculty members spearheading the effort.
Penn State’s significant expertise in space exploration missions is already being tapped. For example, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Penn State researchers, led by Jacob Langelaan, associate professor of aerospace engineering, are contributing to a proposed rotorcraft to explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. The craft, dubbed Dragonfly, is one of two finalists in a NASA-sponsored mission competition. The winner will be announced this summer.
Such a mission requires contributions from multiple disciplines, as well as sub-disciplines within those fields.
The engineering aspects, for example, require input
from electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers. Mathematicians, physicists, geologists, and more contribute from other fields.
Bilén noted that this collaboration—and the understanding
of interdisciplinary work—needs to begin early in a student’s career. The group is proposing an undergraduate degree in planetary science, with several potential pathways through the program. The program would be housed primarily in the Eberly College of Science, which would manage a science- based track for students interested in graduate studies. Another track on science communication will prepare students for careers in museums and planetariums, science journalism, web development, and education. Engineering will offer a third track in aerospace to prepare students for the space- technology industry.
“These students would be trained in space-mission design and how to apply technology to achieve mission objectives,” Bilén said. “We want to educate the next generation of mission leaders.”
The working group is currently soliciting input from a broad range of stakeholders as they prepare an informational white paper detailing Penn State’s resources and knowledge, as well as a curriculum proposal over the coming months. n
Photo credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
“We want to educate the” next mission leaders.

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