Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Surviving Space

AA 108N

Space is dangerous. Anything we put into orbit has to survive the intense forces experienced during launch, extreme temperature changes, impacts by cosmic rays and energetic protons and electrons, as well as hits by human-made orbital debris and meteoroids. If we venture beyond Earth’s sphere of influence, we must also then endure the extreme plasma environment without the protection of our magnetic field. With all of these potential hazards, it is remarkable that our space program has experienced so few catastrophic failures. In this seminar, students will learn how engineers design and test spacecraft to ensure survivability in this harsh space environment. We will explore three different space environment scenarios, including a small satellite that must survive in low earth orbit (LEO); a large spacecraft headed to rendezvous with an asteroid; and a human spaceflight mission to Mars.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Sigrid Close

Sigrid Close’s fascination with rocket science began early when at the age of 5 she told her parents she would some day walk on the moon. Her passion for space travel, in addition to a love of all things sci-fi (most notably Star Trek!) led her to Stanford, where she is currently an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Her primary goal is to make interplanetary space travel safer and interstellar space travel possible. Before heading (all the way) west, she was a project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a technical staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, all the while trying to find time to ski, play piano, scuba dive, and rock climb.