An Interview with a (Soon to Be) Aerospace Engineer

As a final ode to Human Space Flight is Out of this World, I interviewed a soon-to-be aerospace engineer to hear his thoughts on the future of human space flight.  Vincent is currently a junior at the University of Florida, and is enrolled in the Aerospace Engineering program.  The following does not reflect the opinions of the University of Florida.

What made you choose aerospace engineering? 

I chose it as my collegiate major because I wanted to be a surface warfare officer on an aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, so I applied for an NROTC scholarship for which an aerospace engineering major was recommended to me for what I wanted to pursue. I chose it for those reasons, and even after declining the scholarship and changing my career plans, I thought the major was interesting and stuck with it.

Sum up aerospace engineering in one sentence.

Aerospace engineering is the study and practice of anything that flies within the atmosphere and beyond it.

When was the moment you realized aerospace engineering was truly what you wanted to do?

When I initially started undergrad, I realized I was undertaking a tremendous challenge, and part of what made me so interested, and keeps further interested, is how challenging aerospace engineering can be.  It’s widely known that aerospace engineering requires a lot of education/intelligence, and I don’t see myself as a naturally intelligent person, so this requires a dedicated work ethic.

What are your thoughts on human spaceflight?

For the sake of science, it’s not worth our investment of resources to put squishy things (humans) in space.  Excessive over-design is required to accommodate humans on space flights; these include pressurized capsules, food, water, and oxygen.  A human doesn’t make that huge of a contribution to the discovery of science whilst in space, any of their tasks can be done much more effectively with a machine. The resources saved can be reinvested in much more capable machines to discover more science.

For the sake of pride/passion/interest, it is exciting to put humans in space.  It shows how we can overcome boundaries and push further and further with science and technology. Although, the expense of resources to put them there outweighs the ineffective benefits.

Where do you see the future of human spaceflight going? 

We are going to continue our current endeavors because for entertainment, people want to see what we can do. That is where a lot of the funding comes from, a lot of government programs aren’t interested in space science–it’s more of a publicity stunt, people would be interested if we went to Mars.  We’re just going to continue to see how far we can go, how far from Earth–to see if we can find other lifeforms/another planet for after we destroy Earth.

What would you like to see come out of these human spaceflight missions?

My opinion is that we should make it more about the sciences we don’t understand, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity, and use space as a grounds for researching how our universe works, because we can apply what we learn here on Earth or beyond there.  As for human spaceflight, I feel like it should only be used as a secondary tool to make that scientific research possible when machines cannot. It’s more about understanding the world around us, and we will learn plenty of things from it, should we ever need to send humans to another planet, we can apply that found science and technology from unmanned missions.  As of right now, humans do not add any benefit to missions, machines can do anything a human can do–humans just make it more complicated.

Do you believe in aliens?

Depends on your definition of aliens…