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Conquering the Skies and Space Travel: The Essence of Engineering

When you stop to think about the immensity of the challenge and just a handful of the problems that had to be overcome, it is hardly surprising that several contributors thought the lunar landing embodied the Essence of Engineering

The Apollo Lunar Module

The Lunar Module was an incredible feat of engineering that in one moment enabled man to explore another world after centuries of hypothesising. Over seen by Grumman’s Tom Kelly and forming part of the Apollo space programme, it was designed to fly only in the vacuum of space making the journey between lunar orbit and the moon’s surface, land two astronauts on the Moon and go back to the Command Module. Incredibly light in weight and stretching 1960s technology to the limit, the Module enabled one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Glenn Howells, David Marks, Felicity Atekpe, Gavin Thompson
Glenn Howells Architects, Marks Barfield Architects, White Table, Buro Happold (Respectively)

The jet engine

Engineering in essence is the appliance of mathematics and science. The jet engine in its various forms has applied the classic laws of motion and thermodynamics to revolutionise the world of travel and transport. Without the mathematics of Newton and the understanding of thermodynamic cycles of engineers such as Brayton, the jet engine as developed by Whittle and others would not have been possible. Propellers driven by piston engines are limited in power and efficiency, so it is the development of the jet engine that has been the main driver behind the vast expansion in aviation over the past 50 years, a development that has changed our world.

Des Mairs
Davies Maguire and Whitby

The helicopter

Using nothing but the forces generated from air movement to make several tonnes of metal hover in mid-air, the helicopter is the pinnacle of human ingenuity. The research and development that preceded the first functional and useful helicopter was arguably one of the greatest engineering challenges ever completed. Helicopters have saved more than 3 million lives since 1944. This method of flight was considered in the 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci, who described its possibilities but couldn’t provide a propulsion system.

Ben Richard
Hilson Moran

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