The Michigan Engineer News Center

Universities’ crucial role in our spacefaring future

To ensure that our species endures, we must advance space-based technologies and break our interdisciplinary boundaries.| Short Read

By Tuija Pulkkinen and Anthony Waas

Space research and space exploration are vital to the future of humankind. The Earth may be resilient — it’s still here long after the dinosaurs, and it shows no scars from the Carrington solar storm that fried telegraph lines in 1859. But society on this planet is facing some unprecedented challenges.

Our dependence on technological systems such as power grids and satellite communication makes us more vulnerable than ever to solar storms. We should not forget that another significant asteroid collision is a matter of when, not if. And planetwide shifts such as climate change, ocean acidification and deforestation raise vital questions about how the Earth can continue to support the growing population.

These are just a few reasons why this is a pivotal time to take major steps in space-based technologies that can help us predict, adapt to, mitigate and protect ourselves from catastrophes or slower-occurring changes. They’re also good reasons to boost space exploration. To ensure that our species endures, we have a responsibility to develop our society to become a spacefaring one.

This article was published in Inside Higher Ed. Read the full article.

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  • Tuija Pulkkinen

    Tuija Pulkkinen

    Chair, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department

  • Anthony Waas

    Anthony Waas

    Richard A Auhll Department Chair of Aerospace Engineering

Jay Guo holds a sheet of flexible transparent conductor on the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering North Campus. The material sandwiches a thin layer of silver between two “dielectric” materials, aluminum oxide and zinc oxide, producing a conductive anti-reflection coating on the sheet of plastic.

Making plastic more transparent while also adding electrical conductivity

Michigan Engineers change the game by making a conductive coating that’s also anti-reflective. | Medium Read