Analysis of Discourse Material

I have decided to momentarily break off from my usual agenda of informative material, and have decided this week to analyze some blog material I read.  One of the blogs I follow, Bad Astronomy, wrote a post concerning a meteor which will pass the Earth on its orbital path on 08 Nov 2011 (“A city-block-sized asteroid will swing by Earth on November 8“).

The blog post talks about an asteroid which will pass the Earth on November 8.  This asteroid will pass on its orbital path 320000 kilometers from the Earth.  Though the asteroid is not dangerous, in the sense that it could potentially strike the Earth, it has still been labeled a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid because its orbit is the same as Earth’s.  Because it has been labeled as such, astronomers will be observing the asteroid.

The blog post is an interesting read.  The voice is informal in order to form a better connection with the readers.  It uses different medias which are visually engaging, and it uses hyperlinks in order to connect with outside resources, which further validate the information in the blog.  It is clearly a well written because there have been multiple views and numerous comments to the blog post.

What Now?

Now that the space shuttle programs have been terminated, what is there left for NASA to do?  With no more space shuttles, will we no longer be able to explore space?  Was space travel not the main mission of NASA?  According to the NASA website, the ending of the shuttle programs is not at all necessarily a bad thing.  It is not the end of NASA or even human space travel.  “NASA has a robust program of exploration, technology development and scientific research that will last for years to come,” (What’s Next For NASA?).

So what really is next for NASA?  NASA is going to be continuing work in the following areas:

  • exploration- NASA is working on developing a new flight vehicle (Space Launch System rocket) to transport humans beyond the orbit of Earth.  Engineers are also working to construct other technologies necessary for human exploration, such as solar electric propulsion, refueling depots in orbit, radiation protection, and high-reliability life support systems.
  • International Space Station- It is the centerpiece of human flight in low Earth orbit.  The International Space Station acts as an experimental station for exploration technologies and as a national laboratory, where crew members have committed to scientific research.
  • aeronautics- NASA is researching methods of constructing aircraft which is safer, more efficient, quieter, and environmentally responsible.  They are working to create traffic management systems that are safer, more efficient, and more flexible.  Technology is being developed to improve routing during flights and to give aircraft the ability to climb to and descend from their cruising altitudes with ease.  NASA promises to continue to validate new, complex aircraft and air traffic control systems to ensure they meet extremely high safety levels.
  • science- NASA is conducting missions that will seek new knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system, and the universe.  NASA’s science vision encompasses questions that are all practical, enticing, and profound.

A History of the Space Shuttle Programs

I think it is important for us to establish a little background to the NASA space shuttle programs before beginning a discussion about their termination.  I will present the shuttle missions chronologically by year and provide mission summaries for some of the missions I believe to be most important.  I suggest reading the information provided by the links to understand the other missions that I don’t describe.  This post is going to be a little lengthy, but bear with me because after reading this we will be a little more educated.

Space shuttle launches began in 1981 and were recently ended this year.  That is 30 years of successful travel in space via space shuttles.

Further Information about Aerospace Engineering

Looking at my last blog post, I have come to realize I did not give you enough information to fully understand aerospace engineering.  I think it is important to fully understand aerospace engineering before we begin to discuss its impact on the space shuttle projects.  I think in this blog post I will present to you a history of aerospace engineering and then list some elements of the field.


Sir George Cayley, dated from the last decade of the 18th to the mid 19th century, was a pioneer in aeronautical engineering.  He is credited to be the first to separate the forces of lift and drag.  Some key elements of aerospace engineering were understood by scientists in the 18th century.  Concepts and skills of other branches of engineering and early experiments developed the early knowledge and understanding of aeronautical engineering.  Aeronautical engineering was further developed in the 1910s through the designing of military aircraft during World War I, following the successful flight of the Wright brothers.

Aerospace engineering was defined in Feb 1958, considering the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space in a single realm, and thereby encompassing aircraft (“aero”) and spacecraft (“space”).  In the same year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded in response to the Cold War.  US aerospace engineers launched the first US satellite on 31 Jan 1958 in reaction to the launch of the USSR’s Sputnik launch on 4 OCt 1957.


  • Fluid mechanics– the study of fluid flow around objects
  • Astrodynamics– the study of orbital mechanics
  • Statics– the study of mechanics on physical bodies in static equilibrium
  • Dynamics– the study of the causes of motion and changes in motion
  • Mathematics- specifically calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra
  • Electrotechnology– the electronics within engineering
  • Propulsion- the energy which moves vehicles through air or space
  • Control engineering– the study of control theory within systems having predictable behaviors
  • Aircraft structures- the design of the physical configuration of a craft
  • Materials science- the study of the properties of matter
  • Solid mechanics– the study of the behavior of solid matter under external actions
  • Aeroelasitcity– the interaction between aerodynamic forces and structural flexibility
  • Avionics– the design and programming of computer systems on aircrafts and spacecrafts
  • Risk and reliability- the study of assessment techniques and the mathematics involved in the quantitative methods
  • Noice control- the study of the mechanics of sound transfer
  • Flight test- the gathering of data during a craft’s flight and the analysis of this data to evaluate flight characteristics

Aerospace Engineering: What is it?

Before we begin our discussion about the space shuttle projects, I think it is a good idea for us to understand what aerospace engineering is as a field of engineering.  So, let’s answer this question: What is aerospace engineering?

As defined in Wikipedia, aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering which utilizes the science of aircraft and spacecraft to design and construct such vehicles.  This field is composed of two primary overlapping fields of engineering:

Aerospace engineering studies/works with the physics of the forces and physical and aerodynamic characteristics of all aircraft and spacecraft.  The aircraft and spacecraft are designed and constructed around these properties.  Because of its complexity, aerospace engineering is conducted by groups of engineers, each group specifying in a certain aspect of the field.  Put quite simply, aerospace engineering is “rocket science”.