The death star challenge: an ambitious and motivating engineering project to promote astronautics and transform society's vision about space research
Document typeConference lecture
Rights accessOpen Access
The race to put a person on the Moon motivated and captivated the imagination of USA society and the community worldwide. This led to an unprecedented investment in science, technology and the space program, which eventually resulted in a successful Moon landing in 1969. Current estimations state that, for every dollar invested in space technology, there is a return of more than five dollars for the country's GDP. However, public opinion worldwide does not perceive this investment as a benefit for the society. The moonshot was a challenge, an idea, a dream that aligned a whole society towards progress. To change society's vision about space, our proposal is to promote an outrageously ambitious, exciting and motivating Engineering project. While this project may be extremely difficult to implement, it can be envisioned, brainstormed, analyzed, and even brought to the attention of policy makers. It would involve the design of the greatest Engineering work in space, even greater than the International Space Station (ISS). This endeavor would also help to raise awareness in our society about the Earth's sustainability. To that end, the project would drive a circular economy requiring the development of technologies that in the mid-term would reverse climate change. We believe that involving students from different backgrounds in this project would be vital to attract the interest of future generations in Aeronautics and Space research. In order to do this, we propose a number of outreach activities at all different teaching levels. We also propose the organization of an international contest for different ages, in which student groups would submit innovative proposals for different technologies that would be developed throughout the project. Furthermore, in order to raise awareness in our society, the project should generate a debate. The project would consist of the design and construction of a Space Station similar to that of the Star Wars “Death Star”, but without its weaponry and making the most of the publicity around and the revived interest in the Star Wars movies. Its construction would be feasible within a reasonable period of time, and the design would involve international, intercultural and multidisciplinary student teams. This paper outlines the principles that underpin the viability of this project. It also proposes a communication plan for universities as well as an outreach plan for the public at large. Finally, it defines a strategy for developing sustainable projects and assessing the students' learning outcomes.
CitationPerez-Poch, A., Sanchez, F., Lopez, D., Alier, M. An ambitious and motivating Engineering project to promote Astronautics and transform society’s vision about Space Research. A: International Astronautical Congress. "67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Guadalajara, Mexico, 26-30 September 2016". Guadalajara: 2016.
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