2014 Centennial Symposium

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MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium
October 22-24, 2014

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The high point of the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial celebration was the October 22-24 Centennial Symposium featuring some of the most illustrious names in aerospace reflecting on past achievement, celebrating today’s innovative research and education, and offering their perspectives on what lies ahead. The three-day event included a gala dinner at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Buzz Aldrin

Charlie Duke (AeroAstro SM '64) strides across the moon in 1972. He joined other Apollo astronauts at the Symposium to discuss their experiences with the moon exploration project.

Wednesday, October 22

The Centennial Symposium kicked off in the afternoon with reflections on the history of flight and MIT’s contributions to aerospace development. Following a presentation by National Air and Space Museum Senior Curator of Aeronautics Tom Crouch, Apollo astronaut panelists discussed their experiences with the moon exploration project and Skylab, and reflected on one of mankind’s most profound technical achievements.

Thursday, October 23

Day Two focused on industry, government, and academic leaders’ visions of aerospace’s future. The morning began with a panel discussion on the future of air transport and technologies to satisfy growing demands on aircraft, operations, and infrastructure, while addressing energy costs and environmental constraints. The next panel explored autonomous and intelligent aerospace systems, including human-machine interaction and the technologies that will enable long-duration complex unmanned missions.

Buzz Aldrin

As a panelist on Thursday afternoon, Aeroastro Professor Kerri Cahoy will offer her perspectives on the future of small satellites.

Following lunch, experts in the burgeoning field of small satellites detailed innovative applications for these miniature systems, including interplanetary science, and ponder means to make nanosatellites easily customizable and cost-effective. MIT Professor of Geophysics and Vice President for Research Maria Zuber was the featured speaker. The day’s final panel turns the discussion from vehicles and exploration to aerospace education. Discussion centered on the challenge of maintaining a robust industry workforce in the face of looming retirements, use of new educational technologies and tools, and lifelong learning strategies.


Thursday culminated in a banquet, hosted by MIT President Rafael Reif and AeroAstro Department Head Jaime Peraire, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Former Lockheed Martin CEO and President Norman Augustine offered remarks. ___________________________________________________________________________


Friday, October 24


Entrepreneur and businessman Elon Musk wrapped up the Symposium on Friday, October 24. (Dan Taylor / Heisenberg Media photo)

The Symposium’s final day began with 10 undergraduate and graduate students’ “lightning talks”: five-minute presentations on their unique and exciting aerospace-related ideas and projects. The panel presentations wrapped up in a Q&A session with MIT alumni Shuttle and International Space Station astronauts offering thoughts on topics ranging from their experiences as MIT students to their perspectives on the future of manned spaceflight.

Day Three ended with a session featuring entrepreneur, inventor, SpaceX CEO/CTO, and Tesla Motors Chief Product Architect Elon Musk. Musk shared his visions of aerospace’s future, and took questions from the audience.