Solve a Billion Dollar Problem


Engineering Stories are intended to help you learn more about the activities of engineers. After each story, there is a mentoring section where I ask questions and provide insights. I’d like to know how you would solve the problem if you were the engineer in the story.

For example, in The Orbital Mechanic, a solar flare knocks a space probe off course endangering a billion dollar mission. A solution comes just in time from an unlikely source to save the spacecraft.

Here is the Mentors Note that comes at the end of the story. I would love to know your answer to each question. Be an engineer; tell me how you would solve the billion dollar problem.

Mentors Note – “Would you like to be the engineer, mathematician, or scientist that figures out how to get spaceships to distant worlds? If so, you may want to consider a career in Orbital Mechanics, also known as Celestial Mechanics, or Astrodynamics. It’s a great job. Engineers of this type must understand the laws of physics, mathematics, and computers. Dr. Dixon uses all these tools to plan and simulate interplanetary trajectories. As a result, mankind gets more experience with space, and the truth about distant places.

What did you learn from this story? Why does it take so long to get to Jupiter or other planets? Is there a way we can get there faster? Why did Dr. Dixon send Vector1 around the sun, past Venus, and back to Earth before going to Jupiter? Why did the solar flare knock Vector1 off course? Could solar wind make that much difference? Can you think of another way to save the mission?

Why was Kayla able to think of a solution when others didn’t? Everything we see and experience in our lives might help us solve a problem someday. Even in school, all of our classes give us knowledge and perspective to help us be more creative and aware. next time you’re in a math or science class, listen for terms like parabola, conic sections, Newtons laws of motion. With tools like these, you could be The Orbital Mechanic that takes mankind to new and very distant places.”

Send me your comments.

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