Millions of people in France and around the world are doing their best to make sense of the terrorist attack yesterday. How should we deal with it? How can we do something that makes a positive difference?
I offer my humble sympathies and condolences for everyone affected. It is a real tragedy. We must acknowledge that there are injustices and evil forces in the world. The best response, I believe, is to commit to being your own force for Good in everything that you do. This applies to every interaction you have with another human being–whether family, friends, coworkers, or strangers. Every single action makes a difference. And habits make a pattern. It also certainly applies to the career and occupations that you choose. A long career makes a legacy. Let’s consider of all the Good that has come from aerospace professionals.
And let’s start with people in France. The first and only (so far) supersonic commercial aircraft, the Concorde, couldn’t have happened without thousands of people in France and Aerospatiale.
How often do you really stop to think about how amazing our commercial aircraft infrastructure and ecosystem is?!? Flying on an airplane is safer than driving in a car. It is available to the masses (almost certainly you if you are reading this blog). With Airbus, plus everyone who contributes to the airport and airspace infrastructure in France, we have many people to thank there. (In fact, I would argue that people in Boeing ought to thank people in Airbus too because it is certainly keeping them on their toes.)
Louis Breguet developed an elegant and accurate equation to calculate the range of an aircraft that is still taught and used today. He also was one of the first people to experiment with helicopters, while we had barely figured out fixed wing aircraft.
Louis Bleriot was the first person to fly across the English Channel, also the flight over a large body of water. That took tremendous courage and confidence!
I didn’t know this until writing this post, but the first successful seaplane was built and flown by a Frenchman, Gabriel Voisin, in 1905. Less than a year after the Wright brother’s first powered flight!
The French were pioneers in hot air balloons, including the Montgolfier brothers who are credited with the first hot air balloon flight in 1783 (they weren’t the pilots however).
These and more examples (far beyond aerospace) can be found here on wikipedia:
What other space technology is used in everyday life? Possibly the most often cited today is GPS (first developed for the US DoD). This is one acronym every rocket scientist (or GPS user) must know! Keep reading if you need a few seconds.
NASA spin-off technologies have an entire website dedicated this topic:
After you get sucked in by the video with William Shatner, you’ll see examples like materials (heat and radiation protection that first responders now use), biological sensors that are now used in medicine, food science that is now used in baby food, robotics that made their way into artificial limbs…and much much more.
How will you make the world a better place? We need more rocket scientists to do it. We need you.
Even if you need to use a Global Positioning System.