Ar­riv­ing at planet Jupiter: A trib­ute to Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM)

Daily Trust - - IT WORLD -

At 8:53 PM Cal­i­for­nia (USA) time on 4 July 2016 - the U.S. In­de­pen­dence Day - the space­craft Juno de­ployed by the U.S. Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) ar­rived at a de­sired or­bit around Jupiter, which is one of the plan­ets in the so­lar sys­tem. The Earth, on which the con­ti­nents of Africa, Amer­ica, Europe, and Asia are lo­cated, is of course a part of the so­lar sys­tem. The Earth and other plan­ets in the so­lar sys­tem (Mars, Mer­cury, Venus, and so on) - are del­i­cately sus­pended in their re­spec­tive at­mos­pheres; they are ap­prox­i­mately spher­i­cal in shape, and are sur­rounded by clouds - which you can see if you look up­wards into the sky. The plan­ets have their own moons and stars: those for the earth are vis­i­ble on a clear night.

The jour­ney of space­craft Juno from NASA’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory (JPL) in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia; a sub­urb of Los An­ge­les, to Jupiter, took 5 years to com­plete. The av­er­age speed of the ve­hi­cle was 130,000 miles per hour, hit­ting a max­i­mum of 165,000 miles per hour at some point. (At the av­er­age speed, the space­craft would re­quire less than 7 min­utes to travel from La­gos, Nige­ria, to New York City in the U.S.) This is sim­ply awe­some. For another per­spec­tive, com­mer­cial air­lin­ers like Boe­ing 777, take up to 11 hours 20 min­utes for a non-stop flight be­tween these two cities. Equally as­ton­ish­ing is the fact that Juno missed the ar­rival time at Jupiter’s de­sired or­bit pre­dicted 5 years ago - by just one sec­ond. This kind of pre­ci­sion is sim­ply out-of-this-world!

To ar­rive at Jupiter’s at­mos­phere, the space­craft had trav­elled 1.7 bil­lion miles into space from Cal­i­for­nia. To slow down from its speed in or­der to en­ter Jupiter’s or­bit, the space­craft “burned” its en­gine by slam­ming on the brakes for a good 35 min­utes.

Jupiter is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to hu­mans in terms of un­der­stand­ing how the world came to be and find­ing out more about the hu­man race and the pos­si­bil­ity of life out­side planet earth. Jupiter is the big­gest and most com­pli­cated planet in the so­lar sys­tem. It is char­ac­ter­ized by in­tense elec­tro­mag­netic field and in­tense ther­mal ra­di­a­tion. Is Jupiter a rock like its sis­ter plan­ets in the so­lar sys­tem, or is it a gas like the sun? We want to know. What about Jupiter’s moons and stars? Is there life on Jupiter or its moons?

Juno, which is cur­rently en­cir­cling Jupiter in an or­bit, will con­tinue to do so un­til 20 Fe­bru­ary 2018, to col­lect data that could help us ad­dress some of the fore­go­ing ques­tions. Af­ter this date, the space­craft has been pro­grammed to self-de­struct into Jupiter - burn off per­haps - so as not to crash into Europa and con­tam­i­nate it with the micro­organ­isms un­in­ten­tion­ally car­ried by Juno from earth. (Europa is a moon of Jupiter; it is re­garded as one of the likely places for life else­where in the so­lar sys­tem.)

The U.S. has sent a space­craft to Jupiter be­fore: Galileo was sent in 2003, spend­ing eight years there to sur­vey the planet and its many moons. “But ex­cept for a probe that parachuted into Jupiter’s at­mos­phere, Galileo did not have the tools that Juno does, to delve into what lies be­neath Jupiter’s clouds.” NASA con­sid­ers Juno’s suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment as the most sig­nif­i­cant achievement of the or­ga­ni­za­tion - even bigger than land­ing man on the moon in the Apollo pro­gram.

The sec­ond part of this ar­ti­cle is the im­por­tance of the sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics (STEM) sub­jects. The STEM fields ad­vance the course of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion. We owe to the STEM fields, hu­man in­ven­tions such as au­to­mo­biles, air­planes, space­craft and rock­ets, agri­cul­tural ma­chiner­ies and ad­vances in farm­ing, elec­tric­ity, com­puter tech­nol­ogy, re­frig­er­a­tion and air­con­di­tion­ing, and so on.

Should poor coun­tries en­cour­age their stu­dents to pur­sue aero­space en­gi­neer­ing? Of course, they should. First of all, we should not all be study­ing the same sub­ject - agri­cul­ture/ his­tory, or what­ever. As hu­mans, we have dif­fer­ent tal­ents; stu­dents with tal­ents in the STEM sub­jects should be en­cour­aged and given the op­por­tu­ni­ties to pur­sue what they want. More­over, chil­dren in the poor­est of na­tions are just as in­tel­li­gent in the STEM fields as those in the rich na­tions, and should be given the op­por­tu­nity to shine - as well.

Some peo­ple have opined that we needed to solve the prob­lems “on the sur­face of the earth” be­fore dab­bling into stud­ies of aero­nau­tics or space. Wouldn’t they rather have their own peo­ple ul­ti­mately de­sign and build the planes they travel on than buy­ing them from abroad?

Let’s ex­ploit our chil­dren’s and grand­chil­dren’s God-given tal­ents, no mat­ter where they hap­pen to be lo­cated on the planet. Let’s con­trib­ute to the ad­vance­ment of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion by en­cour­ag­ing our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren to opt for the STEM fields in col­lege/ univer­sity.

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