This weekend, 43 years ago, eyes on every continent around the globe were riveted to grainy television images emanating from the surface of the moon as Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the lunar surface (July 20, 1969). Connecticut was especially proud of its role in the space program, highlighted by the engineering at Hamilton Standard in Windsor Locks, which produced the astronaut’s space suits including the environmental control and life support systems, oxygen supply and carbon dioxide removal equipment. Connecticut innovation and ingenuity was serving the national interest yet again. It was, and is, certainly not the only example.
Years later, in 1970,when the Apollo 13 was nearly doomed in orbit by an explosion, Hamilton Standard engineers were among those playing a pivotal role in devising solutions that brought the astronauts safely back to Earth. The Apollo 13 mission later became the subject of a popular movie.
One more example, which pre-dates the space program: when the Smithsonian highlighted ten inventions inspired by science fiction, among them was the work of Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the modern helicopter, who was inspired by a Jules Verne book, Clipper of the Clouds, which he had read as a young boy. Sikorsky often quoted Jules Verne, saying “Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real.”
Today, the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, based at the University of Hartford and including higher education institutions from across the state, is among the Connecticut-based organizations that seek to continue recognizing and encouraging students who are hard at work pursuing scientific investigation with an eye towards applications that will advance exploration. The annual Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair - next to be held in March 2013 at Quinnipiac University - also highlights the accomplishment of students, at the high school level. And earlier this year four Connecticut students captured Grand Awards at the 2012 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science fair.